Trump administration hollows out EPA science integrity board

Katrina Soto
May 9, 2017

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has dismissed at least five members of a major scientific review board in a step widely seen as downgrading science and elevating business interests, a media report said.

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.

J.P. Freire, a spokesman for the agency, said the Trump administration is now looking for nominees who better match the goals of the president.

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

By expanding the applicant pool, Freire likely means opening up the advisory board to more members of industry (it's mostly been filled with people from academia).

Several media outlets reported on the ouster of Richardson and others on the 18-member Board of Scientific Counselors, including the New York Times and the Washington Post. Earlier this year, the House Science Committee led by Lamar Smith (R-TX) pushed for reforms to the Scientific Advisory Board to put more industry representatives in those seats and prevent scientists holding EPA grants from sitting on the board.

One of those scientists no longer on the Board of Scientific Counselors was Michigan State University environmental scientist Robert Richardson. "I have had the pleasure of serving on the EPA Board of Scientific Counselors, and my appointment was terminated today".

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The move followed a wave of EPA actions that have alarmed climate scientists and others.

Under president Trump and administrator Scott Pruitt, the Environmental Protection Agency is not staying true to its name - instead, it's becoming more of an agency protecting the industry. Asking industry leaders to critique and evaluate the science that the EPA's Office of Research and Development does to underpin the evidence based development of policies to protect the environment from the damage those industries cause is sort of analogous to asking the fox to watch the chicken coop!

Many in the scientific community have expressed fears that the move is illustrative of a broader effort to make the agency friendlier to industry at the expense of objective science.

But EPA career staffers misspoke, and the Trump administration had no intention of keeping the Obama holdovers. Tumult in the board of advisers overseeing that office could ensure there are fewer independent eyes assessing whether important work is being done, said Gretchen Goldman, research director for the Center for Science and Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists.

We've reached out to the EPA to confirm exactly how many science advisors are being removed and will update if and when we hear back.

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.

Other reports by My Hot News

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