Trump Administration Eviscerates EPA Advisory Board

CBS News

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) head Scott Pruitt will replace 12 out of the 18 scientists now on the Board of Scientific Counselors (BOSC)-a panel that advises the EPA's Office of Research and Development-while the Department of the Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has frozen more than 200 advisory groups for evaluation.

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.

In addition, Republicans in Congress have tried to limit who can serve on another scientific advisory board for the EPA - the 47-member Science Advisory Board.

According to The New York Times, EPA spokesman J.P. Freire suggested that Scott Pruitt is not interested in maintaining the science-only direction of the board.

But that's not how the members of the board took it. Robert Richardson, a researcher at Michigan State University and who was among those removed, told E&E News that the dismissals "just came out of nowhere".

The Washington Post reports that the board members had previously been told they would stay on for another term, and were surprised to discover that their terms were not renewed. 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.

Lucas, it should be noted, is from the same state as Pruitt, who as Oklahoma's attorney general sued the agency he now runs more than a dozen times to prevent it from enforcing regulations limiting pollution from its powerful fossil-fuel extraction and refining industry.

EPA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

"We want to expand the pool of applicants" for the scientific board, he said, "to as broad a range as possible, to include universities that aren't typically represented and issues that aren't typically represented". Or is it more akin to appointing judges who were once thieves, because they better understand the impact of sentences on the sentenced community?

Lamar Smith, chairman of the House science committee, said in February, "The EPA routinely stacks this board with friendly scientists who receive millions of dollars in grants from the federal government. This approach is what was always intended for the Board and we're making a clear break with the last administration's approach".

Meanwhile, CNN obtained an email from one of the members whose term was not renewed, which said the EPA would "carry out a competitive nomination process to solicit new members rather than reappointing individuals".

During his Senate confirmation process, Senate Democrats said his lawsuits against the EPA disqualify him from the job, in part because he would not be able to sufficiently defend the agency against his own cases.

President Donald Trump has proposed making major cuts to the EPA ever since he took office.

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