Trump administration hollows out EPA science integrity board
07:15, May 9, 2017
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Critics, including Richardson, said the dismissals raise questions about the role of science in the agency's future research - even though a change in administrations of different political parties often results in a turnover of appointees.
An EPA spokesman told The Washington Post that the board members whose terms were not renewed are free to reapply for their positions "in the same open competitive process as the rest of the applicant pool" which may include industry officials from timber, poultry and oil companies.
"These reforms will strengthen the public's trust of the science the EPA uses to support its regulations", Science, Space and Technology Committee Chair Texas Rep. Lamar Smith said on the House floor March regarding the bill. "This one was really unexpected, and in concert with everything else that has been going on and the challenges to science, this is troubling", he said by phone.
"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. This move by the EPA is inserting politics into science. The Times wrote that EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt would consider replacing those scientists with "representatives from industries whose pollution the agency is supposed to regulate", according to J.P. Freire, a spokesperson for Pruitt.
Those notified in recent days may, in the end, be reappointed, he said. "We see this as part of larger pattern of trying to remove science from the making of policy at EPA". He said industry reps make take their places on the panel. O'Grady, a leader of the EPA's employees union. While representation from the corporate world is not exactly a problem (industrial knowledge can be studied by scientists), the issue appears to be more about the potential lack of impartiality from Pruitt.
Robert Richardson, an ecological economist at Michigan State and member of the Board of Scientific Counselors which reviews research done by EPA scientists, sounded the alarm over the dismissals on Friday, telling his Twitter followers: "Today, I was Trumped". In addition, the appointees were apparently told in January, and again by EPA staffers more recently, that they'd have their terms renewed. "We're just interested in finding the best candidates, the most qualified candidates", he said.
The Board of Scientific Counselors was established in 1996 with a mission of providing advice and recommendations on science and engineering practices and research done by the EPA's labs and scientists. "Removing independent advisers means there's less scrutiny on what they are doing and less of a benchmark to compare to what independent scientists think they should be doing".
The Interior Department, which has more than 200 groups created to solicit input, is now reviewing the charter and charge of each board and advisory committee; the evaluation forced the temporary postponement of advisory committee meetings, the department said in an emailed statement.
The Trump administration also has called for deep cuts at the EPA, reducing its overall budget by almost a third, at the same time the administration has moved to reverse or slow some of the agency's regulatory decisions.
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