Trump administration hollows out EPA science integrity board

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The Board of Scientific Counselors, whose members were dismissed over the weekend, evaluates the rigors of the research conducted at the EPA.

Board of Scientific Counselors Chairwoman Deborah Swackhamer said today that nine of the 18 outside experts on her panel saw their three-year terms expire April 30. The agency informed the outside academics on Friday that their terms would not be renewed.

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. "This approach is what was always intended for the Board, and we're making a clean break with the last administration's approach".

Pruitt "will most likely be replacing them with members who come from industry", said John J.

Another of the dismissed scientists, Robert Richardson, an environmental economist at Michigan State University, tweeted: "I was Trumped".

She added, "The EPA is treating this scientific advisory board like its members are political appointees when these committees are not political positions".

Greenwire reported as many as 12 BOSC members were not given a second three-year term, according to Greenwire, which claimed these advisers were "fired". While the move has outraged some environmentalists, it seems completely in line with Pruitt's longstanding goal of curtailing the EPA's regulatory power from within. "I understand that this commitment is longer than is required by the federal impartiality standards, but I am taking this action to avoid even the appearance of any impropriety under federal ethics or professional responsibility obligations".

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The Environmental Protection Agency dismissed a number of scientists on a key review board Friday, and a spokesperson for the agency discussed the possibility that it would replace them with representatives of the industries the agency regulates. The administration has been meeting with academics to talk about the matter and putting thought into which areas of investigation warrant attention from the agency's scientific advisers.

In an emailed statement the EPA said, "EPA received hundreds of nominations to serve on the board, and we want to ensure fair consideration of all the nominees - including those nominated who may have previously served on the panel - and carry out a competitive nomination process".

The move - which has been criticized by government watchdog groups and associations of scientists - is out of the playbook of U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith, R-San Antonio, who represents parts of Central and South Austin and who chairs the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology.

One scientist on the board said he had never before seen a person not reappointed to the board during a presidential transition.

An EPA spokesperson did not respond to TPM's questions about whether, or how dramatically, Pruitt meant to change the balance of the board to favor industry scientists.

The panel of experts, who typically serve two consecutive three-year terms, helps guide the agency's research office.