Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

Big Win! Court Questions EPA Limits on Science Advisory Committees

Science
A protester left a "Science Makes America Great" sign in front of the Environmental Protection Agency during the Science March in Washington on Earth Day, Saturday, April 22, 2017. Bill Clark / CQ Roll Call

By Michael Halpern

Now, for some good news: the First Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Monday that UCS's lawsuit challenging the politicization of EPA science advisory committees may move forward. UCS sued the agency over a new directive that prohibits EPA grant-funded scientists from serving on these committees.


The ban makes it easier for the EPA to improperly influence its advisory committees at the expense of independent advice that actually reflects the best available science. A February court decision in a different case found that EPA failed to provide justification for the scientist ban.

The First Circuit found that under the Federal Advisory Committee Act, the EPA must ensure that its advisory committees are sufficiently balanced so that they can provide independent advice. "FACA clearly requires agency heads at least to consider whether new restraints on committee membership might inappropriately enhance special interest influence and to eschew such restraints when they do so," wrote the First Circuit.

UCS and co-plaintiff Dr. Elizabeth A. (Lianne) Sheppard, a professor at the University of Washington School of Public Health, are represented pro bono by law firm Jenner & Block and legal nonprofit Protect Democracy. "We're very pleased with the First Circuit's decision," said Lindsay Harrison with Jenner & Block. "This case is an important victory for scientific integrity."

These arbitrary exclusions make it easier for the agency to manipulate the policymaking process and avoid accountability for the decisions they make. Since we filed our lawsuit, the EPA has further politicized its science advice processes, completely eliminating some advisory panels and stacking existing committees and boards with industry representatives.

"Now more than ever, we need scientists and experts guiding policy-making in this country," said Protect Democracy counsel Jamilla Benkato. "In a functioning democracy, those with expertise must have a seat at the table and must not be silenced because elected officials don't like what they have to say."

The constraints on science advice have already meant that the agency's scientific advisory panels have lacked the expertise necessary to inform the EPA's decision on air pollution standards.

The scientists who are doing the most relevant research should be able to give science advice to EPA on current and emerging public health threats. We look forward to this case moving forward and demonstrating the impact that the scientist ban has on the agency's ability to protect public health and the environment.

Reposted with permission from Union of Concerned Scientists.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Trump sits during a meeting about safely reopening schools during the coronavirus pandemic on July 7, 2020, in Washington, DC. JIM WATSON / AFP via Getty Images

The Trump administration began the formal process of withdrawing from the World Health Organization (WHO), a White House official said Tuesday, even as coronavirus cases continue to surge in the country.

Read More Show Less
Refrigerated trucks function as temporary morgues at the South Brooklyn Marine Terminal on May 06, 2020 in New York City. As of July, the states where COVID-19 cases are rising are mostly in the West and South. Justin Heiman / Getty Images

The official number of people in the U.S. who have lost their lives to the new coronavirus has now passed 130,000, according to tallies from The New York Times, Reuters and Johns Hopkins University.

Read More Show Less
A man walks on pink snow at the Presena glacier near Pellizzano, Italy on July 4, 2020. MIGUEL MEDINA / AFP via Getty Images

In a troubling sign for the future of the Italian Alps, the snow and ice in a glacier is turning pink due to the growth of snow-melting algae, according to scientists studying the pink ice phenomenon, as CNN reported.

Read More Show Less
Climate activist Greta Thunberg discusses EU plans to tackle the climate emergency with Parliament's environment committee on March 4, 2020. CC-BY-4.0: © European Union 2020 – Source: EP

By Abdullahi Alim

The 2008 financial crisis spurred a number of youth movements including Occupy Wall Street and the Arab Spring. A decade later, this anger resurfaced in a new wave of global protests, from Hong Kong to Beirut to London, only this time driven by the children of the 2008 financial crisis.

Read More Show Less
A climate activist holds a victory sign in Washington, DC. after President Obama announced that he would reject the Keystone XL Pipeline proposal on November 6, 2015. Mark Wilson / Getty Images

By Jake Johnson

The Supreme Court late Monday upheld a federal judge's rejection of a crucial permit for Keystone XL and blocked the Trump administration's attempt to greenlight construction of the 1,200-mile crude oil project, the third such blow to the fossil fuel industry in a day—coming just hours after the cancellation of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and the court-ordered shutdown of the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Read More Show Less
A forest fire in Yakutsk in eastern Siberia on June 2, 2020. Yevgeny Sofroneyev / TASS via Getty Images

Once thought too frozen to burn, Siberia is now on fire and spewing carbon after enduring its warmest June ever, according to CNN.

Read More Show Less

Trending

The Colima fir tree's distribution has been reduced to the area surrounding the Nevado de Colima volcano. Agustín del Castillo

By Agustín del Castillo

For 20 years, the Colima fir tree (Abies colimensis) has been at the heart of many disputes to conserve the temperate forests of southern Jalisco, a state in central Mexico. Today, the future of this tree rests upon whether the area's avocado crops will advance further and whether neighboring communities will unite to protect it.

Read More Show Less