By Michael Bastasch
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt will roll out a new policy to bar researchers currently receiving agency funding from serving on scientific advisory boards.
Pruitt’s new directive has already sparked outrage among environmental activists and media outlets critical of the Trump administration’s actions.
It’s not a surprise move. Pruitt said in mid-October he would issue a directive to “ensure the independence and transparency and objectivity with respect to the scientific advice that we’re getting at the agency.”
Republicans have tried to reform EPA’s science advisory boards for years, pushing legislation to block researchers receiving government grants from serving on such boards. Conservatives argue serving on EPA boards while taking agency funding could compromise their independence.
“Over the years, those individuals, as they’ve served in those capacities, guess what’s also happened?” Pruitt told an audience at the Heritage Foundation earlier this month. “They’ve received monies through grants, and sometimes substantial monies through grants.”
“And if we have individuals that are on those boards receiving money from the agency, sometimes going back years and years, to the tune of literally tens of millions of dollars over time,” Pruitt said, “that to me causes question on the independence and the veracity and the transparency of those recommendations that are coming our way.”
Once Pruitt’s order is in place, EPA will have to replace current science advisers who benefit from agency grants.
In 2016, the Energy & Environment Legal Institute sued EPA to prevent its Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASAC) from meeting after finding that 24 of its 26 members had received or are the current recipients of EPA grants.
In total, panel members received more than $190 million from EPA. Seventeen of the 20 scientific advisers sitting on EPA’s ozone panel also benefitted from $192 million in EPA grants.
The Washington Post obtained a list of appointees to EPA’s science advisory board, which includes “voices from regulated industries, academics and environmental regulators from conservative states, and researchers who have a history of critiquing the science and economics underpinning tighter environmental regulations.”
Politico energy reporter Emily Holden tweeted that around eight current EPA scientific advisers “will be dismissed for having grants.” Though, that has not been confirmed by EPA.
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