Tuesday the federal government cut off funding for the Marine Protected Areas Federal Advisory Committee run by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Interior Department’s Invasive Species Advisory Committee (ISAC). Both committees have existed for more than a decade. ISAC is the more senior since it was founded in 1999, while the Marine Protected Areas committee was chartered in 2003.
The White House also decided to cut the Health and Human Services Department’s Presidential Advisory Council on Combating Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria, according to Bloomberg Government.
Advisers to the Marine Protected Areas Federal Advisory Committee told The Hill that they were informed on Monday that the committee could be disbanded, but they were not given a reason why. However, in June, Trump did issue an executive order that the EPA and other agencies eliminate one-third of their advisory committees, according to Bloomberg Environment.
Trump orders EPA to eliminate at least a third of its regulatory and scientific advisory committees. https://t.co/Ffgs8TiOax
— Bloomberg Law: Environment (@environment) June 24, 2019
“Two years ago, when the federal advisory committee was up for renewal, a lot of us thought it would get the ax given the politics of the federal government,” said McClintock, a scientist on the council, to The Hill. When it didn’t, we were surprised and glad we had the extra two years. Now that it’s been discontinued, I can only guess at the reasons why.”
However, the Union of Concerned Scientists was less veiled in its guesses as to the administration’s motivations.
“This executive order was just another example of this administration seeking to cut science and information out of the government and decision-making process,” wrote Genna Reed, a lead science and policy analyst in the Center for Science and Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists, in a blog post.
“Cutting out pathways to accurately communicate the truth means that decisions that impact lives will be less informed by experts in the field and by public comment,” she wrote.
The Marine Protected Areas Federal Advisory Committee advises NOAA on ways to strengthen the country’s marine protected areas and identify challenges facing them. There are over 1,700 protected areas, including monuments and sanctuaries. Yet, in 2017, President Trump asked the commerce department to explore the offshore energy potential of those protected areas, according to The Hill.
The ISAC, by contrast, was told in May that their funding would be cut. Several committee members told The Hill that their findings often irked administration officials.
“I am guessing it is not simple coincidence that several of the ISAC white papers on various topics in the last three years repeatedly mentioned that existing federal programs, especially those at USDA, were myopic and largely ineffective in certain areas due to their failure to collaborate with other agencies,” said Ed Clark, president and founder of the Wildlife Center of Virginia, who served on the advisory committee, as The Hill reported.
One of the committees that was retained was the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument Advisory Committee, which advocates opening up Utah’s protected lands to mining, as Bloomberg Government reported.
“It is so slanted toward energy development there’s no chance that they create any recommendations other than drill and mine everywhere,” said Aaron Weiss, deputy director at the Center for Western Priorities, to Bloomberg Government. “So that’s why they’re keeping this one going, is they know exactly what the outcome will be.”
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