Volume 95 Issue 20 | p. 20 | News of The Week
Issue Date: May 15, 2017 | Web Date: May 9, 2017

Trump EPA dismisses half of scientific advisory group

Unexpected move surprises members who review agency research programs
Department: Government & Policy
News Channels: Environmental SCENE
Keywords: Regulation, EPA, Board of Scientific Counselors
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The Board of Scientific Counselors reviews EPA’s in-house research, including investigations into the sources and effects of water pollution. Here, agency scientist Jana Compton adds a small amount of nitrate and a red dye, which is used for tracking, to a stream as part of a study of nitrogen removal within the waterway.
Credit: EPA
An EPA scientist adds a red dye to a stream.
 
The Board of Scientific Counselors reviews EPA’s in-house research, including investigations into the sources and effects of water pollution. Here, agency scientist Jana Compton adds a small amount of nitrate and a red dye, which is used for tracking, to a stream as part of a study of nitrogen removal within the waterway.
Credit: EPA

A membership shake-up in an Environmental Protection Agency scientific advisory council could be a sign of more changes to come at the regulatory agency, policy experts are saying.

In an unusual action, EPA did not grant nine of the 18 members on its Board of Scientific Counselors (BOSC) a second three-year term. An additional four were already scheduled to rotate off the board this year due to term limits, BOSC chairwoman and environmental chemist Deborah L. Swackhamer tells C&EN. Composed of scientists from outside the agency, the board reviews technical and management issues related to EPA’s in-house research.

The unexpected dismissals and statements from EPA officials leave Swackhamer and others concerned that the agency will open itself to potential conflicts of interest by filling the vacant slots with members from regulated industries.

EPA spokesman J.P. Freire says the agency has received hundreds of nominations to serve on the board, and the agency intends to “carry out a competitive nomination process.”

Gretchen Goldman, research director of the Center for Science & Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists, is watching to see what the move portends for other scientific review groups at the agency. These include the Science Advisory Board, whose work is more closely tied to policy outcomes than BOSC’s, she says.

The move is another way that the Trump Administration is trying to take science out of the regulatory process, Goldman asserts. “It builds on other actions that we’re seeing this administration take with respect to science and science advisors.”

With their diminished numbers, BOSC’s remaining five members may find their capacity to review the agency’s scientific research program limited, several board members tell C&EN.

Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), the top Democrat on the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment & Public Works, last week asked EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt for more information about the dismissals. Carper says he is concerned that through this and other actions, EPA is engaging in “a broad approach of denying the science that forms the basis of sound environmental regulation.”

 
Chemical & Engineering News
ISSN 0009-2347
Copyright © American Chemical Society
Comments
John Tranquilli (Tue May 09 17:23:23 EDT 2017)
It is sad that c&en has become so political. Have you become a political editorial magazine. It was nice back in the day when you just focused on the factual news about the industry. Not comments from politicians. We get enough politics for other areas, we don't need it from industry publications. I almost can't even read the site anymore.
Kevin (Wed May 10 08:22:28 EDT 2017)
How is this not factual news about the industry?
John Tranquilli (Mon May 15 13:51:40 EDT 2017)
"The move is another way that the Trump Administration is trying to take science out of the regulatory process" None of these statements are facts. It just an opinion. Until there are regulations that can be tested and proven wrong, these statements are just opinion.
William Rubin (Thu May 18 11:51:55 EDT 2017)
Well said John! Some scientists have a difficult time separating fact from opinion.
Joseph Weiss (Wed May 10 13:54:01 EDT 2017)
It may surprise Mr. Tranquilli that scientists read C&EN and we would like to know from a reliable source what is happening to our fellow scientists.
Randall Detra (Wed May 10 14:19:21 EDT 2017)
Seems if politics so egregiously impacts science, then it is news we scientists need to know about. But, although it is necessary, I agree it is sad
Raymond S. Stewart (Wed May 10 14:57:15 EDT 2017)
Thank you for this timely update. We may not like it, but political activities intrude on our ability to perform as scientists. We ignore these activities at our peril.
John T. O'Connor (Wed May 10 15:51:13 EDT 2017)
These dismissals are evidence of a frontal assault on the scientific, engineering and academic communities, based on political bias toward scientists. All ACS members should be made aware of such efforts to distort the direction of scientific funding.
John Smith (Wed May 10 17:06:57 EDT 2017)
First they came for the Climatologists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Climatologist.
Then they came for the Science Advisers, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Science Adviser.
Then they came for the EPA, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not the EPA.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me
William Rubin (Thu May 18 11:55:36 EDT 2017)
First they came for the creation scientists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a creation scientist.
Then they came for the climate change deniers, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a climate change denier.
Then they came for the remaining scientists who were not left-leaning, and I did not speak out—
Because I was a left-leaning scientist.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me
Andrew Rasmussen (Mon May 15 14:14:54 EDT 2017)
I see the article as being critical to "filling the vacant slots with members from regulated industries", and I disagree. The EPA has a very large effect on industry in this nation, and having no voice for industry on the advisory board is poor idea.

In my opinion, just because you work in an industry doesn't mean you don't want to do what's right, it means you have a different view point. The same is true that just because you are a "scientist" doesn't mean you are are always going to push for the right thing.

I see this as a normal shake up, probably a little extreme as three quarters of the board are being changed, but I don't think this portends dark intentions of the Trump administration. I think it portends that Donald Trump is planning on setting things up in his way, rather than President Obama's way.
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