Scott Pruitt’s Environmental Protection Agency has dismissed half of its 18-member Board of Scientific Counselors, which reviews and provides feedback on the EPA’s scientific research. “The administrator believes we should have people on this board who understand the impact of regulations on the regulated community,” EPA spokesman J.P. Freire told the New York Times. Trump’s EPA would like “to take as inclusive an approach to regulation as possible.”
What a beautiful soufflé of euphemism! In the upside-down fever dream of right-wing fossil fuel worship, stacking a board that helps protect citizens from industrial pollution with industry interests is only fair. Freire told the Washington Post that the EPA might consider industry scientific experts for these positions as long as there are not conflicts of interest. And considering that our current EPA chief, while Oklahoma AG, copied and pasted a letter written by an oil company and sent it under state letterhead to the EPA, it certainly will be interesting to discover what these people consider a conflict of interest, won’t it?
The Washington Post reports that the board members had previously been told they would stay on for another term, and were surprised to discover that their terms were not renewed. “I’ve never heard of any circumstance where someone didn’t serve two consecutive terms,” Robert Richardson, an ecological economist and associate professor at Michigan State University’s Department of Community Sustainability, told the Post.
“The role that science has played in the agency in the past, this step is a significant step in a different direction,” Richardson said in a separate interview with E&E News. “Anecdotally, based on what we know about the administrator, I think it will be science that will appear to be friendlier to industry, the fossil fuel industry, the chemical industry, and I think it will be science that marginalizes climate change science.”
“We’re not going to rubber-stamp the last administration’s appointees. Instead, they should participate in the same open competitive process as the rest of the applicant pool,” Freire told the Post.
Pruitt’s chief of staff Ryan Jackson told the Post that members could reapply for their positions. “I’m not quite sure why some EPA career staff simply get angry by us opening up the process,” he said. “It seems unprofessional to me.” Jackson is the former chief of staff for Congress’s loudest climate change denier, Sen. James Inhofe, who’s best known for hurling a snowball onto the Senate floor to prove that global warming is a hoax.
A larger review board, the Scientific Advisory Panel, is facing an overwhelming 84 percent budget cut, according to a budget document obtained by the Post last month. This is because of “an anticipated lower number of peer reviews,” according to the document.
The EPA’s climate change website is currently being updated “to reflect EPA’s priorities under the leadership of President Trump and Administrator Pruitt”—the city of Chicago has republished the information on its own website—and a page meant to help educate kids on climate change has become mysteriously difficult to locate.