The Environmental Protection Agency forced out at least five members of a key scientific advisory board on May 7 — and their possible replacements include representatives of polluting industries the agency regulates.
The 18-member Board of Scientific Counselors reviews research conducted by EPA scientists and advises the agency on new directions for its research. It’s not a partisan board, but has been a target of political attacks from Republicans like Representative Lamar Smith, who say it pushes the agency toward stricter regulations.
According to The New York Times, EPA spokesman J.P. Freire suggested that Scott Pruitt is considering replacing the ousted scientists with representatives from industries subject to EPA regulations.
“The administrator believes we should have people on this board who understand the impact of regulations on the regulated community,” Freire told the Times. In other words, Pruitt is considering mixing industry interests into a board that has previously been charged with focusing on science alone.
The dismissed researchers received emails letting them know their three-year terms would not be renewed — even though just weeks ago EPA leaders had told them they would stay on. Several of the scientists told the Times that they felt the decision was political.
One, Robert Richardson, an environmental economist at Michigan State University, took to Twitter to voice his disagreement with the decision.
He also retweeted a tweet from an MSU colleague, the environmental scientist Laura Olabisi, accusing Pruitt of pandering to polluting industries.
EPA representatives did not immediately respond to Business Insider’s request for comment, and the agency has not yet put out an official statement on the firing. However, Pruitt’s chief of staff told the Washington Post that he thinks the fired members’ reactions were out of line.
“I’m not quite sure why some EPA career staff simply get angry by us opening up the process,” he told the Post. “It seems unprofessional to me.”
It remains to be seen who will get appointed to the board. However, given Pruitt’s history of printing letters written by fossil fuel companies on government letterhead and signing them with his own name, business interests have reason to be optimistic.
Today, I was Trumped. I have had the pleasure of serving on the EPA Board of Scientific Counselors, and my appointment was terminated today.
— Robert Richardson (@ecotrope) May 5, 2017
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