Scott Pruitt signed a new directive at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) this Tuesday that all but annihilated what was left of its scientific advisory boards.
At a surreal ceremony that involved the inclusion of baffling Biblical references – and while flanked by some of the most long-standing and influential climate deniers in Washington – Pruitt announced that any scientist funded by the agency cannot give advice on how it implements it.
Researchers at the EPA are now essentially restricted to carrying out fairly neutered work on environmental issues, pollution, and climate change, most of which is already ignored by the top brass.
Earlier this year, it was announced that the vast majority of the scientists that sat on one of three councils at the EPA would not have their contracts renewed. Ever since, the agency has been gradually infiltrated by coal lobbyists and petrochemical industry darlings, and they are now expected to constitute the majority of those that sit on these advisory boards.
“We denounce the decision to disallow qualified scientific experts from providing evidence-based information as members of its science adviser boards,” Rush Holt, the chief executive officer for the American Association of the Advancement of Science (AAAS), said in a press statement emailed to reporters.
“This EPA decision is motivated by politics, not the desire for quality scientific information.”
The EPA has undergone a systematic purge of all its key academics ever since Pruitt took over as its administrator. This latest declaration is both an unprecedented and extremely detrimental move, the likes of which hasn’t been seen since the agency’s creation back in 1970.
It certainly matches Pruitt’s earlier rhetoric, who said back in August that science shouldn’t dictate American policy.
At Tuesday’s press conference, he said that “we want to ensure that there’s integrity in the process and that the scientists that are advising us are doing so without any type of appearance of conflict of interest.”
It’s been pointed out that the ex-industry staffers and fossil fuel lobbyists set to be in charge of these advisory boards will absolutely suffer from conflicts of interest. Unlike EPA scientists, whose job it is to understand how best to protect the environment and human health, these individuals will have a far more dangerous ethos.
Just as an example, the new head of the Science Advisory Board – the most important of the three EPA councils – will be Michael Honeycutt, a toxicologist who spent his time at a Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, a controversial organization that repeatedly failed to hold polluters to account.
It’s widely agreed that the best people to run or at least advise federal scientific agencies are scientific experts – but it appears the Trump administration has missed this vital memo.