Trump administration hollows out EPA science integrity board


The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), under the Trump administration, has "eviscerated" a key scientific review board in order to replace them with industry professionals, the board's chair has said.

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.

Friere, however, said the decision to replace some members of the Board of Scientific Counselors - who were notified of the decision on Friday - was simply meant to broaden the pool of advisors and, he told the New York Times, to "take as inclusive an approach to regulation as possible". According to the Times, spokesman J.P. Freire said that Pruitt justified the reason to keep industry figures on the board as an attempt to "understand the impact of regulations on the regulated community".

Members of the BOSC Executive Committee, subcommittees, and workgroups represent a distinguished body of scientists and engineers who are recognized experts in their respective fields. On Monday, five members of the EPA's Board of Scientific Counselors were dismissed from their positions.

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.

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Although all the scientists being dismissed are at the ends of their three-year terms, appointees to the board are generally not seen as political actors and usually have their terms renewed.

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

"The science will show the impact of a particular chemical or toxic substance, but we would never say it should be banned or regulated in a particular way", said Richardson, an ecological economist at Michigan State University. "Instead, they should participate in the same open competitive process as the rest of the applicant pool", Freire said.

Freire added, "We're making a clean break with the last administration's approach". Given such statements from Pruitt, along with his extensive history of attacking the EPA, the qualms being raised by critics and those invested in advancing scientific research on climate must be heeded - and soon.

Pruitt's chief of staff Ryan Jackson told the Post that members could reapply for their positions.

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"There's hiring freeze, so we can't actually replace them until EPA says it's OK", said Swackhamer, who taught environmental health sciences at the University of Minnesota.

House Science Committee Chairman Lamar Smith, R-Texas, held a hearing on the issue in February, arguing that the composition of the Scientific Advisory Board, which was established in 1978, should be expanded to include more non-academics.

Conservative federal legislators have complained that the EPA's Scientific Advisory Board (a 47-member panel that works with the Board of Scientific Counselors) lacks "balance", although the board is independent and composed of relevant experts who can assess underlying science that informs EPA policy.

Ever since Trump nominated Pruitt in December, Democrats and environmentalists have hounded him with conflict of interest allegations.

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