Pruitt Actions on EPA Advisory Board Undermine Independent Science, Put Americans at Risk

Statement by Andrew Rosenberg, Union of Concerned Scientists

Published Oct 31, 2017

WASHINGTON (October 31, 2017)—Today, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt is expected to announce new members of key science advisory boards and dismiss from the boards academic scientists who have received EPA grant funding. In appointing new members to the primary Science Advisory Board (SAB) and Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASAC), he has reportedly removed several independent scientists, refused to renew terms for qualified scientists who had already served, appointed people with ties to industry and views well outside the scientific mainstream, and shrunk the size of the SAB. By replacing respected experts with industry-tied, conflicted and unqualified individuals, Pruitt will undercut the vital role that science plays in protecting Americans, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS).

Below is a statement by Andrew Rosenberg, director of the Center for Science and Democracy at UCS.

“Today, Administrator Scott Pruitt has made it clear that he has no interest in following the science and doing the job of protecting the public set out for him by law.

“The EPA’s science advisory boards are supposed to be composed of the best experts in the field, putting their knowledge and skills to work on behalf of the public. Pruitt broke with precedent by refusing to renew the terms of several board members, and his choices to fill open slots are, in many cases, opposed to the laws the EPA enforces and funded by the industries the EPA oversees. This opens the door to political interference in science and, ultimately, puts us all at risk.

“Pruitt’s abrupt dismissal of members who have received EPA grants to fund their research is especially unsettling. These grants don’t come with strings—they’re meant to help promote the best independent science in a variety of fields. The suggestion that federal research grants would conflict with advisory board work is frankly dishonest. Pruitt is turning the idea of ‘conflict of interest’ on its head—he claims federal research grants should exclude a scientist from an EPA advisory board but industry funding shouldn’t.

“In the end, the consequences of these decisions aren’t just bad for a few scientists. This could mean that there’s no independent voice ensuring that EPA follows the science on everything from drinking water pollution to atmospheric chemical exposure.

“Independent science is absolutely critical to making good policies that keep our air and water clean and our communities safe. But this administration—particularly Administrator Pruitt—seems to have taken every opportunity to cut science out. Today’s announcement is a blatant effort to stack the boards and put narrow industry interests ahead of public health and safety. We will pursue all legal options available to us to prevent any scientist ban from remaining in place.”