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Policy

EPA advisor fears marginalization of science

by Jeff Johnson, special to C&EN
June 5, 2017 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 95, ISSUE 23

A top EPA science adviser is warning that recent actions of the Trump Administration may diminish the role and the importance of science at the agency. Deborah L. Swackhamer, chair of EPA’s Board of Scientific Counselors (BOSC) and former chair of the agency’s Science Advisory Board, spoke at a May 23 hearing held by a panel of the U.S. House of Representatives Science, Space & Technology Committee. Swackhamer is concerned with the impact of EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s recent decision not to renew appointments of nine BOSC members. EPA officials and others say Pruitt wants more diverse scientific committees that include more members from regulated industry. Swackhamer said this may lead to a perception that science is being politicized and marginalized in the agency. BOSC, she says, does not review regulations or science compiled to support regulations but does review science without regard to its use. Although she acknowledges Pruitt’s authority to select science committee members more to his liking, Swackhamer fears a marginalized future role for objective, knowledgeable science advisers. With Pruitt’s cuts and the end of some members’ terms, BOSC’s 18-member advisory committee will be down to five, she pointed out.

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