Published: Tue, May 09, 2017
Local | By Dorothy Bennett

US environmental chief to recuse himself from court cases

US environmental chief to recuse himself from court cases

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt notified half the 18 members of the Board of Scientific Counselors that their terms had ended and would not be renewed. The affected board members' terms expired April 30. Speaking to the Washington Post, Pruitt spokesman Freire said the dismissed scientists could reapply for their positions.

Other media reports had Friere saying the changes were meant to allow new EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt - who has been a long-standing critic of the agency - to bring in new advisers, and that he would consider replacing academics on the board with people from industry as long as the appointments did not lead to conflicts of interest.

On 5 May 2017, Michigan State University environmental economist Robert Richardson tweeted that his appointment on the Environmental Protection Agency's Board of Scientific Counselors (BOSC) was terminated, stating that the news was both unusual and surprising.

Smith told the American-Statesman that he supported the move by EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt for "being proactive in addressing issues related to EPA's science advisory bodies".

Courtney Flint, a professor of natural resource sociology at Utah State University who had served one term on the board, said in an email that she was also surprised to learn that her term would not be renewed, "particularly since I was told that such a renewal was expected".

EPA wants to open up the process to the hundreds of applicants that were not considered by the Obama administration.

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.

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According to the Washington Post, an overhaul of scientific boards is not unique to the EPA this week.

It is not clear from what industries or companies the replacement members of the board could come. Tumult in the board of advisers overseeing that office could ensure there are fewer independent eyes assessing whether important work is being done, said Gretchen Goldman, research director for the Center for Science and Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists. "These folks were appointed for three-year terms, they're not guaranteed a second three-year term".

The changes to the obscure EPA scientific counselors panel could be a precursor to changes in the membership and makeup of two other panels that play an influential role recommending safe air-pollution limits and vetting the scientific basis of regulations.

EPA spokesman J.P. Freire said the scientist's descriptions of being fired were not accurate.

Sen. James Inhofe (R., Okla.), who questions the link between human activity and climate change and has several former aides now working for Pruitt, said in an interview earlier this year that under the new administration, "They're going to have to start dealing with science and not rigged science" at EPA.

The measure would effectively prevent many scientific experts from serving on the oversight board.

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