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U.S. EPA names scientific ombudsman to fight secrecy claims

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) named a scientific ombudsman on Monday to fight back against accusations by Republican lawmakers of being opaque in its scientific findings and not allowing outside parties to review them.

The agency tapped Francesca Grifo to be its first "scientific integrity official."

Grifo is formerly the director of the scientific integrity program at the Union of Concerned Scientists and a director of the Center for Environmental Research at Columbia University.

She will be given the task of coordinating the agency's policies on scientific integrity and chairing a committee devoted to the subject.

"Science is, and continues to be, the backbone of this agency and the integrity of our science is central to the identity and credibility of our work," EPA administrator Gina McCarthy said in a statement.

The agency has for years been criticized by Republican lawmakers who accused the EPA of using "secret science" to justify what the lawmakers see as over regulation that crimps economic growth and costs jobs.

The House of Representatives Science and Technology committee earlier this month brought McCarthy in to testify about the agency's use of scientific information.

David Vitter of Louisiana, the ranking Republican on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, was unimpressed by Grifo's appointment.

"'Scientific integrity' is a moot point when the science remains secret, no matter who's in this role. There's currently no method to independently analyze or verify their (EPA's) science, or its integrity," said Vitter.

(For the EPA's "Scientific Integrity Policy, see: http://www.epa.gov/osa/pdfs/epa_scientific_integrity_policy_20120115.pdf)

(Reporting by Valerie Volcovici. Editing by Ros Krasny and Andre Grenon)

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