The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), under the Trump administration, has "eviscerated" a key scientific review board in order to replace them with industry professionals, the board's chair has said. The members were told via email that their three-year terms on the board, which had just expired, would not be renewed.
Board members are limited to two three-year terms, where experts are typically reappointed for the second term, but the EPA chose to cut their tenures short to one term on this occasion.
J.P. Freire, a spokesman for the agency, said the Trump administration is now looking for nominees who better match the goals of the president.
"The administrator believes we should have people on this board who understand the impact of regulations on the regulated community", Freire told the Times.
The EPA statement said Pruitt will continue to consult with the agency's ethics counsel to ensure there is no question of impropriety in how it deals with litigation to which Pruitt had been a party as Oklahoma's attorney general.
But the move came as a surprise to members of the board, who had been informed both in January, before Barack Obama left office, and then more recently by EPA career staff members, that they would be kept on for another term. "Instead, they should participate in the same open competitive process as the rest of the applicant pool", Freire said.
There is a notable ideological shift at the agency under the Trump administration and EPA head Scott Pruitt.
"It's not totally unusual to see boards turn over", said Thomas Burke, a former deputy administrator for the EPA's Office of Research and Development.
Joe Arvai, who sits on the 47-member Scientific Advisory Board at the EPA and directs the University of Michigan's Erb Institute for Global Sustainable Enterprise, has noted his board already includes industry scientists.
Courtney Flint, a professor at Utah State University on the Board of Scientific Counselors, told CNN Monday that the news of her upcoming termination implied an obviously ideological shift at the agency.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Department of the Interior said Monday they intend to shake up some science advisory panels with an eye toward bringing in new blood, a move that's in line with congressional Republicans' recent efforts to change how federal regulators use science to make rules.
According to The New York Times, EPA spokesman J.P. Freire suggested that Scott Pruitt is considering replacing the ousted scientists with representatives from industries subject to EPA regulations.
An EPA spokesman disputed that anyone was dismissed, saying that individuals on the science review board are appointed for a single three-year term, and that those whose terms are not renewed can re-apply to serve again in the future. Now, these industries will potentially have an even greater influence on the EPA's ability to formalize any regulation by weighing in on the integrity of the science used to develop policies in the first place. That money typically covers travel and other expenses for outside experts who attend the board's public meetings. EPA officials confirmed to several news organizations over the weekend that several.