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SST and E&C Committee Leaders Send Letter to Administrator Pruitt Opposing Harmful Changes to EPA Scientific Advisory Panels

Actions prioritize industry advice over independent science
Nov 3, 2017
Press Release

(Washington, DC) – Today, Ranking Members of the Committees on Science, Space & Technology and Energy & Commerce sent a letter to Scott Pruitt, Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) strongly opposing the directive he issued imposing severe limitations on the scientific advice and expertise that the Agency’s science advisory committees may receive. The directive would bar scores of the nation’s most qualified scientists from sitting on these committees. It also appears to violate the law regulating federal advisory committees.

Today’s letter was signed by Science, Space, and Technology Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), Energy and Commerce Ranking Member Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), both Committees’ Oversight Subcommittee Ranking Members Don Beyer (D-VA) and Diana DeGette (D-CO), and both Committees’ Environment Subcommittee Ranking Members Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) and Paul Tonko (D-NY).

Administrator Pruitt issued the directive under the false facade of strengthening the “independence” of the EPA’s science advisory committees. In reality, the measure will seriously diminish the scientific expertise the EPA receives. At the same time, the order will increase the number of industry representatives and industry-funded scientists providing advice to the EPA. This is a clear move to silence independent scientists, endangering the environment and harming the public’s health as a result.

In the letter, the Members pointed out that industry officials are already well represented on the EPA’s science advisory committees, including representatives from the oil, gas, energy, mining, automotive, and chemical industries. “The notion that private corporations and industries that are regulated by the EPA do not have a voice on the Agency’s science advisory boards is simply false,” the Members wrote. EPA boards already include representatives from a wide range of industrial sectors, including the oil, gas and energy industry, mining industry, automotive industry, chemical companies and others.  The directive is likely to unduly enhance industry representation and influence at the Agency. New board members that Administrator Pruitt has just appointed to the EPA’s Science Advisory Board, for instance, include representatives from the American Chemistry Council, Phillips 66, and the Southern Company.

As noted in the letter, the new directive also appears to violate the requirements of the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA) to ensure that advisory committees are balanced with respect to the viewpoints of the members of the Committee as a whole.  “The policy you are prescribing appears to contradict government-wide practice and FACA requirements, as well as conflict of interest regulations set by the General Services Agency and the Office of Government Ethics, respectively,” the Members wrote.

The Members called on Administrator Pruitt to withdraw his directive, stating: “We advise you to follow FACA regulations and policy in selecting qualified individuals to serve on EPA’s science advisory committees just as previous administrations led by both parties have done. Anything less is a great disservice to the public interest.”

115th Congress