Dwayne Whitney owns a trucking business. He started it decades ago with only one truck. Since then, his company has grown. Now he has 18 trucks and 20 employees. But that growth may soon be stunted by the state of California.
"The State of California says my trucks are killing people," Whitney told ReasonTV. "What do you say to that?"
The California Air Resources Board (CARB) said this: that the pollution emitted from buses and trucks contributes to 2,000 deaths a year in California.
Rubbish! says UCLA's Dr. James Enstrom.
That number is probably closer to zero, he says. While CARB wants to render Whitney's trucks illegal, Enstrom has research that could keep Whitney's fleet on the road.
Enstrom was a member of UCLA's Department of Environmental Health Sciences and he authored a 2005 study--the largest, most detailed study on the matter to date--on the relationship between diesel particulates and premature deaths. Diesel particulates are a type of pollutant emitted from trucks. The study found no relationship at all between those pollutants and premature deaths.
Was Enstrom rewarded for his groundbreaking research?
No. CARB ignored his report and UCLA told him that after 34 years at the school, he was out of a job. So much for academic freedom. "I have felt very intimidated by this process," Enstrom says.
Adam Kissel of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) observes that "The environmental regulation machine in powerful in California....When Dr. Enstrom went up against that machine he was retaliated against."
Enstrom's story is detailed in this excellent ReasonTV report:
Twelve members of California's state legislature caught wind of Enstrom's story and have come to his defense as well. The twelve legislators may "promptly hold a hearing in Sacramento on this matter," arguing that "the integrity of the University of California requires that faculty have the freedom to publish research findings, without fear of potential retribution from those in higher positions."
Kissel explains over at FIRE's website:
Twelve members of the California State Legislature have written UCLA Chancellor Gene D. Block and Provost Scott Waugh a letter decrying UCLA's treatment of longtime Department of Environmental Health Sciences faculty member James E. Enstrom. Professor Enstrom was let go from UCLA after some 34 years under circumstances detailed by FIRE and described in a video released yesterday from Reason.tv.
Led by Chief Republican Whip Dan Logue, Assemblymember, Third District, the legislators write that they "remain deeply troubled by the University's inability to provide credible cause for Dr. Enstrom's dismissal, and the appearance of political interference in the University's academic discourse."
They also raise concerns "as to the integrity of this process," since UCLA's allegation that Enstrom failed to meet his department's "minimum requirements" appears to have been based on a document dating back to 1995 that Enstrom had never seen and which might not be at all applicable to Enstrom's position. (I wrote about this document a couple of weeks ago.) The legislators write that "this policy of minimum requirements has neither been enforced with the Department, nor has the document been provided to Dr. Enstrom despite his specific request. This seems arbitrary and capricious and undermines the legitimacy of the Department's reasons for dismissal."
Kissel says, "If Dr. Enstrom loses his job because he expressed his academic freedom, then it's a message to other researchers that you'd better not rock the boat because you might be next."