Trump administration hollows out EPA science integrity board

Melba VasquezMay 09, 2017

Although all the scientists being dismissed are at the ends of their three-year terms, they are not political actors and the mandates are generally renewed, barring special circumstances.

Conservatives have long criticized the makeup of the Board of Scientific Counselors and the larger 47-member Scientific Advisory Board, which are tasked with reviewing and evaluating E.P.A. research and guiding policy.

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

"The administrator believes we should have people on this board who understand the impact of regulations on the regulated community". It was not immediately clear from the news reports how many members were let go. "Instead, they should participate in the same open competitive process as the rest of the applicant pool", he said.

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.

The Board of Science Counselors has 18 members, at least five of whom were dismissed on Friday.

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Courtney Flint, a professor of natural resource sociology at Utah State University who had served one term on the board, said in an email that she was also surprised to learn that her term would not be renewed, "particularly since I was told that such a renewal was expected". "It's important that high-caliber, world-class, well-respected, well-published, objective scientists be appointed", he said, acknowledging there may be value to "enriching the mix of science that advises the EPA".

EPA spokesman J.P. Freire said the agency wants to consider new nominees, including those who may now work for regulated industries. "Members of the board say they have reviewed the EPA's scientific research on the public health impact of leaking underground fuel tanks, the toxicity of the chemicals used to clean up oil spills, and the effects of the spread of bark beetles caused by a warming climate", the Times writes.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Department of the Interior said Monday they intend to shake up some science advisory panels with an eye toward bringing in new blood, a move that's in line with congressional Republicans' recent efforts to change how federal regulators use science to make rules.

The Trump administration already has targeted EPA's Office of Research and Development for a $233 million spending cut next fiscal year - about half its annual budget.

One scientist on the board said he had never before seen a person not reappointed to the board during a presidential transition. "Perhaps more significant is the signal it sends about the politicization of science, which will likely exacerbate mistrust and cynicism of the federal government".

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.

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