The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will not be renewing the terms of at least five scientists on its 18-member Board of Scientific Counselors, according to a Sunday night report from the New York Times.
Board members are limited to two three-year terms, where experts are typically reappointed for the second term, but the EPA chose to cut their tenures short to one term on this occasion. That has included the 47-member Scientific Advisory Board, which Republican members of Congress have said needs reworking to "provide meaningful and unbiased scientific advice" and increased transparency.
On Friday, Trump's EPA administrator ousted members of the EPA's Board of Scientific Counselors, which advises on work by agency scientists.
The EPA spokesperson said the agency wanted scientists from a more diverse background, including scientists from industry.
"The administrator believes we should have people on this board who understand the impact of regulations on the regulated community", spokesperson J.P. Freire told The Times. "While I have recused myself from making decisions on specific cases, it is my duty and privilege as the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency to actively engage in rulemaking".
Courtney Flint, a professor of natural resource sociology at Utah State University who had served one term on the board, said in an email that she was also surprised to learn that her term would not be renewed, "particularly since I was told that such a renewal was expected". "Instead, they should participate in the same open competitive process as the rest of the applicant pool", Freire said.
Freire called the cuts "a clean break" from the Obama administration's way of doing things. "What seems to be premature removals of members of this Board of Science Counsellors when the board has come out in favour of the EPA strengthening its climate science, plus the severe cuts to research and development - you have to see all these things as interconnected".
The counselors are typically top academic experts in their fields tasked with helping ensure the agency's scientists follow best practices.
In fact, the academics who did not get another three year term can reapply for their board positions, but now they'll have to compete in a larger pool of applicants. That money typically covers travel and other expenses for outside experts who attend the board's public meetings.
"The EPA's mission is to protect human health and the environment", he added.
The EPA Science Advisory Board Reform Act, which Smith co-sponsored and which passed the House in late March, bars anyone who has an ongoing EPA research grant from serving on the Science Advisory Board, another board that helps oversee work at the EPA, and prohibits board members from applying for grants for three years after they step down from the panel. Former board members tell the Times that it would review research such as oil spills, the chemicals used to clean oil spills up and the effects of bark beetles due to climate change.
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