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Mr. Gollin, who ran unsuccessfully in a Democratic congressional primary in Illinois this year, said he was troubled by the EPA’s decision to name Ms. Schreppel to the board of such a high-profile and significant panel.

“It’s a concern,” he said. “For something as risky as this, you want people you can trust.”

He mentioned a Senate hearing in 2004 when the Government Accountability Office released its findings on several schools, including Kennedy Western.

At the hearing, Claudia Gelzer, a lieutenant commander in the Coast Guard who was detailed to the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, testified about her undercover work contacting Kennedy Western to ask about earning a master’s degree in environmental engineering.

She said the school accepted at face value that she had taken six seminars and four training courses related to oil spill response, which not only got her into the school but also gave her nearly half the credits she would need to graduate based on life experiences.

Ms. Glazer said 20 other accredited schools she contacted would offer no credit for life experience.

She also testified that committee investigators found that every student in the master’s program was offered 33 percent to 60 percent credit toward a degree based on life experience.

Issue of convenience

Ms. Schreppel said that wasn’t her experience. She said she chose online education because it fit her busy schedule as a midcareer professional. She said she was employed by a water utility in upstate New York and that there were no master’s or doctorate degree programs nearby.

Though Ms. Schreppel said she was serving on the EPA’s scientific advisory panel, she didn’t view her role as that of a scientist.

Instead, she said, she thought she could offer the perspective of a water utility user. She is director of water quality at the Mohawk Valley Water Authority. Numerous materials on the utility’s website, including a 2013 water quality report, list her by the title of doctor.