Scott Pruitt selecting new advisers without this “conflict of interest.”
In a news release, the EPA described the move as ensuring that advisers are “independent and free from any real, apparent, or potential interference with their ability to objectively serve as a committee member.” Pruitt and some other conservative critics of environmental regulations have recently argued that scientists who have performed EPA-funded research have a conflict of interest—that they are biased toward approving new regulatory efforts. “Whatever science comes out of EPA, shouldn’t be political science,” Pruitt said in the agency’s release.
Traditionally, the EPA has viewed researchers who won grants for their work as experts—you’d hope an agency only gave money to scientists it thought were among the best. As such, they were also viewed as valuable contributors who could review the quality of the agency’s scientific analyses.
Pruitt also announced plans to replace some of the scientists he had earlier gotten rid of. “In the spirit of cooperative federalism, Administrator Pruitt intends to appoint members that will significantly increase geographic diversity and state, tribal, and local government participation on the committees,” the release explains.
According to The Washington Post, those appointees will include individuals from industry, environmental regulators from conservative states, and researchers who are known to be critical of the EPA. The new chairman of the board, for example, will be Texas Commission on Environmental Quality toxicologist Michael Honeycutt, who has consistently argued against the need for stricter controls on ozone, arsenic, mercury, and benzene pollution.
Last year, a conservative group called the Energy and Environment Legal Institute—the same group that has sued universities for access to climate scientists’ e-mails—sued the EPA over the alleged conflict of interest of scientific advisory board members with EPA research grants. They lost, and the court rejected the idea that the grants created a conflict of interest.
But now the administrator of the EPA is making that allegation agency policy.
Nearly 20 years ago, the Cassini-Huygens mission was launched and the spacecraft has spent the last 13 years orbiting Saturn. Cassini burned up in Saturn’s atmosphere, and left an amazing legacy.