Physicians for Social Responsibility v. Wheeler, No. 19-5104 (D.C. Cir. 2020)Annotate this Case
Three scientists who had previously received EPA grants and served on advisory committees, as well as several non-profit organizations, filed suit arguing that the EPA's directive, which now prohibits all grant recipients from serving on any agency advisory committee, was both arbitrary and capricious and contrary to law in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act (APA).
The DC Circuit reversed the district court's grant of the EPA's motion to dismiss, holding that the mandatory language of GSA's regulations provides meaningful standards for defining the limits of the agency's discretion, giving the court law to apply under section 701(a)(2) of the APA. On the merits of the APA claim, the court held that the district court correctly dismissed plaintiffs' claim that the Directive is contrary to law merely because it differs from OGE's uniform standards; the EPA failed to rationally address its previous conclusion that EPA grantees can provide objective and unbiased advice on matters unrelated to their grants; and an agency's failure to comply with OGE's process is subject to judicial review irrespective of a disclaimer contained in the OGE regulations. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings.