The U.S. Government Accountability Office accepted a request from lawmakers, led by Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-Rhode Island, and Tom Carper, D-Delaware, to review the Environmental Protection Agency’s process for selecting federal advisory committee members.
The review comes after the agency abruptly dismissed 12 scientists from its Board of Scientific Counselors earlier this year. In May, it was reported that EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt intended to replace the scientists with officials from the industries that EPA is charged with regulating. After the announcement, Carper sent a letter to Pruitt seeking more information as to why the scientists were dismissed, but the agency has failed to provide adequate answers to that inquiry.
The EPA is home to 23 such committees, which advise the agency on environmental science, public health, safety, and other subjects central to the EPA’s work. Federal law requires the committees to remain balanced in the viewpoints they represent and functions they perform.
“I expect GAO will take a close look at whether the Pruitt EPA is doing enough to protect the scientific integrity of its advisory committees,” Whitehouse said. “Given Scott Pruitt’s long-standing, cozy ties to industry, the public has a right to ask just who Mr. Pruitt is clearing these seats for.”
“I’m pleased that the Government Accountability Office is going to look into how President Trump’s EPA is getting scientific advice, including the process that led to the agency’s abrupt, unprompted dismissal of scientists from more than a dozen advisory positions,” Carper said. “I fear that the dismissal of nonpartisan scientific advisers, combined with other steps EPA has taken to remove any mention of climate change from its website, censor the analysis of career staff and deny the consensus scientific views about the cause of climate change, represents a broader approach of denying the science that forms the basis of sound environmental policy. The best science available has always been, and must continue to be, the foundation for EPA’s work, and any attempts to politicize or silence the non-partisan conclusions of scientists will only endanger the health of Americans across this country.”