Trump's EPA takes aim at scientific review board

Posted May 09, 2017

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has decided not to renew three-year terms for at least some scientists who advise the agency on its research and how that impacts certain environmental regulations. The members were told via email that their three-year terms on the board, which had just expired, would not be renewed.

At least five members of the BOSC have already been dismissed after their terms ended this year, according to The New York Times; numerous members' terms already have or will expire this fiscal year.

The Board of Scientific Counselors is an 18-member board whose mission is to "evaluate science and engineering research, programs and plans, laboratories, and research-management practices of ORD [EPA's office of research and development] and recommend actions to improve their quality and or strengthen their relevance to EPA's mission".

"We're not going to rubber-stamp the last administration's appointees", Friere told the Washington Post.

EPA spokesman J.P. Freire said in an email that "no one has been fired or terminated", and that Pruitt had simply chose to bring in fresh advisers.

But the move came as a surprise to members of the board, who had been informed both in January, before Barack Obama left office, and then more recently by EPA career staff members, that they would be kept on for another term.

"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.

Discarding them opens the door for President Donald Tump and EPA administrator Scott Pruitt to replace the independent experts with professionals from industry that the EPA is supposed to monitor, leading to "regulatory certainty". Dropping experts who could challenge the scientific basis for his decisions might sound depressing, but it's wholly consistent with everything else we've seen so far.

The EPA Science Advisory Board Reform Act, which Smith co-sponsored and which passed the House in late March, bars anyone who has an ongoing EPA research grant from serving on the Science Advisory Board, another board that helps oversee work at the EPA, and prohibits board members from applying for grants for three years after they step down from the panel.

Freire added, "We're making a clean break with the last administration's approach".

Pruitt also disagrees with the consensus of climate scientists that man-made carbon emissions are the primary cause of climate change, saying that limits on burning coal costs jobs.

Courtney Flint, a professor at Utah State University on the Board of Scientific Counselors, told CNN Monday that the news of her upcoming termination implied an obviously ideological shift at the agency. The EPA has plenty of scientists who conduct research and publish their findings. At a February House hearing, he said the Science Advisory Board members are "rubber stamps who approve all the EPA's regulation".