Over the weekend, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt declined to reappoint several members of the EPA’s Board of Scientific Councillors. His rationale: To “change” the way the agency evaluates the scientific basis for its regulations.
His actions come on the heels of House Science Committee Chairman Lamar Smith’s contention that membership on EPA science advisory boards should be expanded to include more representatives from business and industry.
Here’s the thing: Membership on the SAB’s chartered board, and standing and ad hoc panels already includes credible scientists from industry. On top of that, all of the SAB’s work on agency rule-making is open to public viewing and comment.
So, if diversity of thought and transparency are the Administrator’s concerns, his worries are misplaced because the SAB is already has these bases covered.
Add to all this the fact that the Administrator has ultimate authority over the issues that go before the SAB, as well as membership on the SAB. So, really, the buck starts and stops with him already.
So, if you ask me, his moves over the weekend — as well as the House bill to reform the SAB — are attempts to use the SAB as a political toy.
By making these moves, the Administrator and members of the House can pander to the president’s base by looking like they’re getting tough on all those pesky “liberal scientists”. But, all else being equal, nothing fundamentally changes about how the SAB operates.
If all else isn’t equal, then the elephant in the room is who the Administrator might select to fill vacancies on the SAB. If he selects people with poor scientific credentials, or people that are little more than shills for industry, then buckle up because human and environmental health will suffer.
It’s Tuesday the 9th of May, in the year 2017. It’s not a normal day.
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