Trump administration hollows out EPA science integrity board

Trump administration hollows out EPA science integrity board

The Environmental Protection Agency has removed "at least five" members of a scientific review board and may consider replacing them with representatives of industries it regulates, The New York Times reported.

The Board of Scientific Counselors advises the EPA on the quality and accuracy of the science it produces, but it was confirmed on Monday (8 May) that nine of its 18 members' terms would not be renewed.

"In the broader view, I suppose it is the prerogative of this administration to set the goals of federal agencies and to appoint members to advisory boards", she added.

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt is recusing himself from lawsuits he was previously involved in as attorney general of Oklahoma, including litigation over the Obama-era Clean Power Plan and Waters of the United States rule. "The administrator believes we should have people on this board who understand the impact of regulations on the regulated community", the E.P.A. spokesperson said in the statement to the Times, adding that the agency is adopting "as inclusive an approach to regulation as possible" and plans to expand the applicant pool to include "universities that aren't typically represented and issues that aren't typically represented". I have had the pleasure of serving on the EPA Board of Scientific Counselors, and my appointment was terminated today. "I see the dismissal of the scientists from the Board of Scientific Counsellors as a test balloon", said Joseph Arvai, an environmental scientist at the University of MI who is on the Scientific Advisory Board. "EPA is stressing here that this is supposed to be an open and competitive process; no one was ever supposed to be guaranteed a second term".

"We're not going to rubber-stamp the last administration's appointees", Friere told the Washington Post. "This approach is what was always intended for the Board and we're making a clear break with the last administration's approach".

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The board's advisers are appointed for three-year terms, which are typically renewed even under a new administration.

It is primarily made up of academic scientists and other experts who review EPA's research to ensure that the regulations the agency undertakes have a sound scientific basis.

The move - which has been criticized by government watchdog groups and associations of scientists - is out of the playbook of U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith, R-San Antonio, who represents parts of Central and South Austin and who chairs the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology.

An EPA spokesperson did not respond to TPM's questions about whether, or how dramatically, Pruitt meant to change the balance of the board to favor industry scientists.

"I'm not quite sure why some EPA career staff simply get angry by us opening up the process", he said. Some in the scientific community say the dismissal of such a large number of scientists from the EPA's Board of Scientific Counselors is further evidence of that.

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