The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) cleaned house on its scientific review board last week, dismissing at least five scientists on its 18-member Board of Scientific Counselors.
The scientists, including professors of natural resource sociology, told multiple outlets they were surprised to receive notices that they would not be asked to renew their tenure on the board, especially after being assured in January that they would retain their positions through the new administration.
A spokesperson for EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt told the New York Times that the agency was considering filling the vacancies with representatives from industry the EPA regulates, in order to include members who "understand the impact of regulations on the regulated community."
Concerned current board members told the Times that the dismissals could be seen as a "test balloon" for further political moves against science.
Robert Richardson, an ecological economist at Michigan State University and one of those dismissed, said, the cuts "just came out of nowhere."
"The role that science has played in the agency in the past, this step is a significant step in a different direction," he said. "Anecdotally, based on what we know about the administrator, I think it will be science that will appear to be friendlier to industry, the fossil fuel industry, the chemical industry, and I think it will be science that marginalizes climate change science."
Ken Kimmell, president of the Union of Concerned Scientists, said that the dismal of the scientists "is completely part of a multifaceted effort to get science out of the way of a deregulation agenda."
What seems to be premature removals of members of this Board of Science Counselors when the board has come out in favor of the EPA strengthening its climate science, plus the severe cuts to research and development—you have to see all these things as interconnected."
For a deeper dive: