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EPA Shakeup Risks Sidelining Science, Environmentalists Say
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is reshuffling its science offices, the agency confirmed to The Hill Thursday, in a move that environmental advocates and career staffers fear will minimize the impact of science on policy.
The shifts are occurring within the EPA's Office of Research and Development (ORD), and involve combining the Office of Science Policy and the Office of the Science Advisor into a single Office of Science Integration and Policy.
The move is a defacto demotion for the agency's top scientist, who will now report to the Deputy Assistant Administrator for Science instead of directly to EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler, The New York Times reported.
The change was announced to the ORD staff on Wednesday, The Hill reported, a day after the EPA placed Office of Children's Health Protection leader Dr. Ruth Etzel on unexplained administrative leave.
"Clearly, this is an attempt to silence voices whether it's in the agency's Office of Children's Health or the Office of the Science Advisor to kill career civil servants' input and scientific perspectives on rule-making," Michael Mikulka, who leads a union representing around 900 EPA staffers, told The New York Times.
Current Science Advisor Dr. Jennifer Orme-Zavaleta said in a statement emailed to The New York Times that the changes were an attempt to "combine offices with similar functions" and "eliminate redundancies."
The shakeup will also include reorganizing administrative ORD activities under an Office of Resource Management, The Hill reported.
Further, the National Center for Environmental Research (NCER), which tests the impacts of chemicals on adults and children, will disband and "relevant functions" will be divided between the two new offices.
Deputy Director of the Center for Science and Democracy with the Union of Concerned Scientists Michael Halpern said the shake-up was bad news for science at the agency.
"Everything from research on chemicals and health, to peer-review testing to data analysis would inevitably suffer," he told The New York Times.
The EPA under the Trump administration has previously been criticized for sidelining science.
Former EPA administrator Scott Pruitt announced plans before he resigned to restrict the types of studies the EPA could use to make decisions, limiting the agency to studies whose results were publicly available.
The current demotion of the science advisor position comes as Pruitt's acting replacement, former coal lobbyist Wheeler. Is leading a reorganizational effort at the agency, The New York Times reported.
Halpern warned The Hill that there was precedent at Trump's EPA for diminishing the role of important offices.
"We've seen what happens when an office gets de-prioritized, they become less visible. The office of environmental justice, which is a shell of what it was before, the Office of Children Health Protection would be equally vulnerable. It's the more cross cutting programs that tend to be the most vulnerable to politicization," he told The Hill.
The EPA told The Hill that full time staff would not be reduced as part of the changes.
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‘Companies Should Not Be Allowed to Use Hazardous Ingredients in Products People Use’: Michelle Pfeiffer Speaks Up for Safer Cosmetics
The beauty products we put on our skin can have important consequences for our health. Just this March, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned that some Claire's cosmetics had tested positive for asbestos. But the FDA could only issue a warning, not a recall, because current law does not empower the agency to do so.
Michelle Pfeiffer wants to change that.
The actress and Environmental Working Group (EWG) board member was spotted on Capitol Hill Thursday lobbying lawmakers on behalf of a bill that would increase oversight of the cosmetics industry, The Washington Post reported.
By Julia Conley
Scientists at the United Nations' intergovernmental body focusing on biodiversity sounded alarms earlier this month with its report on the looming potential extinction of one million species — but few heard their calls, according to a German newspaper report.
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Of more than 1,000 registered voters surveyed on global warming, climate and energy policies, as well as personal and collective action, 38 percent said that a candidate's position on climate change is "very important" when it comes to determining who will win their vote. Overall, democratic candidates are under more pressure to provide green solutions as part of their campaign promises with 64 percent of Democrat voters saying they prioritize the issue compared with just 34 percent of Independents and 12 percent of Republicans.
President Donald Trump has agreed to sign a $19.1 billion disaster relief bill that will help Americans still recovering from the flooding, hurricanes and wildfires that have devastated parts of the country in the past two years. Senate Republicans said they struck a deal with the president to approve the measure, despite the fact that it did not include the funding he wanted for the U.S.-Mexican border, CNN reported.
"The U.S. Senate has just approved a 19 Billion Dollar Disaster Relief Bill, with my total approval. Great!" the president tweeted Thursday.
"There was a lot of devastation throughout the state," Governor Mike Parson said at a Thursday morning press conference, as NPR reported. "We were very fortunate last night that we didn't have more injuries than what we had, and we didn't have more fatalities across the state. But three is too many."