Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt is replacing 21 members of the Science Advisory Board with industry-funded scientists who oppose measures intended to mitigate the health risks of their respective industries. Pruitt said several of the scientists removed from the Board had conflicts of interest because they received EPA grants.
Because of Pruitt’s directive prohibiting scientists receiving EPA grants from serving, more than two-thirds of the Board is now comprised of members with ties to industries that cause the pollution the EPA historically has tried to prevent, including tobacco, fossil fuels, and chemicals. Former board Chairperson Deborah Swackhamer notes that, “If memberships are weighted toward viewpoints that support the agenda of the administration, then the administration is signaling that it’s not asking for advice, but for a rubber stamp.”
In January 2018, the Union of Concerned Scientists and former advisory board member Elizabeth Anne Sheppard sued Pruitt and the EPA, claiming that the purging of eminent scientists was “arbitrary and capricious,” exceeds the agency’s statutory authority, and violates the Federal Advisory Committee Act. The suit asks the court to find the EPA’s directive illegal, declare that the EPA’s policy of removing and refusing to appoint to FACs individuals in receipt of an EPA grant or who “would reap substantial direct benefit” from an EPA grant is arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, and otherwise in violation of law.
The EPA Science Advisory Board’s main responsibility is to investigate the science behind EPA recommendations. Pruitt argues that the regulations on EPA government funding for scientists on the board are meant to restore the transparency and objectivity on the board and keep it diverse. However, there are no regulations in place pertaining to the industry representatives.
In addition to reports by independent news sources, such as featured in the Center for Investigative Reporting’s Reveal, there has been limited coverage of this news story in the establishment press, including reports in the Washington Post, the New York Times, and Forbes magazine.
Source: Liza Gross, Lindsey Konkel, and Elizabeth Grossman, “EPA Swaps Top Science Advisers with Industry Allies,” Reveal, November 16, 2017, www.revealnews.org/article/epa-swaps-top-science-advisers-with-industry-allies/.
Student Researcher: Brendan Ellis (University of Regina)
Faculty Evaluators: Janelle Blakley and Patricia Elliott (University of Regina)