Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator Scott Pruitt issued a new directive on Tuesday that will end the conflict of interest from agency science advisers who receive EPA grant money.
EPA administrator Pruitt said, “Whatever science comes out of EPA, shouldn’t be political science. From this day forward, EPA advisory committee members will be financially independent from the Agency.”
Pruitt’s new rulemaking stipulates that no member of an EPA federal advisory committee (FAC) can receive an EPA grant. Pruitt explained at a press conference on Tuesday that science advisers that currently receive EPA grant money will have to choose whether to continue receiving the grant or serve as an agency adviser.
“You have to choose either grant or serve on the board. You can’t do both,” declared Pruitt.
The EPA calculates that over 20 members of three of EPA’s 22 FACs, including the Science Advisory Board (SAB), Clean Air Scientific Committee (CASAC), and the Board of Scientific Counselors (BOSC), received over $77 million in direct EPA grant funding while serving on these committees.
The administrator’s new directive will also seek to increase the agency’s “state, tribal and local government participation,” increase geographic diversity, and promote new ideological diversity that will come from different geographic and government entities. Pruitt chided the previous EPA administration, which he argues failed to represent the American West and Midwest.
“Strengthening independence from EPA, increasing state, tribal and local government participation, and adding geographic diversity and fresh perspectives will improve the integrity of EPA’s scientific advisory committees,” explained Pruitt.
During a press conference on Tuesday, Pruitt said that he “looks forward to ensuring that independence and integrity is maintained” for the agency’s science advisers.
Reporters asked Pruitt whether the EPA would also have safeguards over agency science advisers that receive grants from private industry. Pruitt explained that the EPA can only control agency grants, however, he added that the EPA ethics board would ensure that there would not be any conflicts of interest coming from advisers who receive industry associated grants.
At the press conference on Tuesday, House Science, Space, and Technology Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) said, “Americans can thank Administrator Pruitt for advancing sound government, and sound science.”
Administrator Pruitt has sought to unshackle America’s energy markets through repealing many Obama-era practices. Pruitt repealed the Clean Power Plan, one of Obama’s signature environmental regulations; the Clean Power Plan tried to cap carbon emissions from power plants. Pruitt also ended the agency’s “Sue and Settle” practice that allowed the EPA to create regulation through litigation.
Scott Pruitt’s actions fall well within President Trump’s agenda to unravel Obama’s environmental legacy and pursue an America First policy of “energy dominance.”