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Legislation

US EPA adds external science advisers

Climate change skeptic among new appointees

by Cheryl Hogue
February 7, 2019 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 97, ISSUE 6

 

Panels that provide science advice to the US Environmental Protection Agency have 34 new members, almost evenly split between academics and industry consultants. They include a skeptic of human-caused climate change and several consultants who have worked on behalf of chemical companies.

94%

Percentage of the newly appointed US EPA science advisers who are men

In his picks, acting EPA head Andrew Wheeler hewed to a 2017 policy instituted by his predecessor that bars academics who receive grant money from the agency from serving as advisers. Wheeler says the newly appointed experts, who will serve three-year terms, represent a variety of disciplines and reflect geographic diversity.

Wheeler added eight experts to the agency’s flagship Science Advisory Board (SAB), which overall now consists of 35 men and 10 women. Five of those people come from Texas, while a sixth is an emeritus professor of Texas Tech University who now lives in Maryland. Perhaps the best-known appointee is John Christy, a professor of atmospheric science at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, who argues that greenhouse gases emitted by human activity aren’t heating the planet as much as climate models show.

32

Number of states with residents serving on the EPA Science Advisory Board or its subpanels, in addition to the District of Columbia

The other 26 appointees will serve on one of the SAB subpanels on chemical assessment, drinking water, agricultural science, and radiation. Among those added to the chemical-assessment panel is Richard B. Belzer, a consultant who has argued that the EPA’s chemical-hazard assessments exaggerate risks.

Genna Reed, science and policy analyst for the Union of Concerned Scientists, tells C&EN that many of Wheeler’s picks emphasize scientific uncertainty to argue against environmental protections. They could help Wheeler carry out President Donald J. Trump’s agenda of deregulation, she says.

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