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EPA Limits Independent Science Advisors, Provokes Conflict of Interest Concerns

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Science Advisory Board public meeting on fracking's effect on drinking water, June 14, 2016. YouTube

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) chief Scott Pruitt announced a new policy Tuesday to limit the presence of researchers who have received EPA research grants on the agency's Scientific Advisory Board (SAB).

The move, which Pruitt has said will promote "objective, independent-minded" advisors, has been promoted by conservative think tanks and industry as a way of including more industry voices on advisory panels.


A list provided to the Washington Post and E&E News of expected new appointees to the advisory board shows several industry representatives, government officials and outspoken proponents of deregulation. The move "bans some independent scientists from providing scientific advice while giving those with conflicts a free pass," Michael Halpern of the Union of Concerned Scientists wrote in a blog post quoted by Politico.

"Collectively, these actions create an abhorrent double standard: scientists who rely on public funding are left out, while industry scientists face no restrictions on service," Halpern added. "Fossil fuel and chemical companies already enjoy undue influence over EPA policy under Pruitt. Now, they're taking control over science advice to the agency."

As reported by the Washington Post:

"The move represents a fundamental shift, one that could change the scientific and technical advice that historically has guided the agency as it crafts environmental regulations. The decision to bar any researcher who receives EPA grant money from serving as an adviser appears to be unprecedented."

The Post added that Terry F. Yosie, the advisory board's director during the Reagan administration, said the changes "represent a major purge of independent scientists and a decision to sideline the SAB from major EPA decision-making in the future."

For a deeper dive:

Washington Post, Politico Pro, E&E

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