The Environmental Protection Agency dismissed at least five scientists on the agency's Board of Science Counselors on Friday, The New York Times reported Sunday night, and J.P. Freire, a spokesman for EPA boss Scott Pruitt, says they will likely be replaced by people "who understand the impact of regulations on the regulated community." The move to put industry representatives on the major scientific advisory board instead of academic researchers is part of Pruitt's effort "to take as inclusive an approach to regulation as possible," Freire tells The New York Times. The pool of applicants should "include universities that aren't typically represented and issues that aren't typically represented."
The five dismissed scientists, out of an 18-member board, include an expert on handling hazardous waste, a natural resource sociologist who studies how communities deal with environmental shocks, and an environmental economist. The Board of Science Counselors reviews and evaluates research by EPA scientists, research that is used to formulate policies and regulations. There is also a 47-member panel, the Science Advisory Board, that helps steer topics of research by EPA scientists and evaluates the scientific rigor of some regulation; the House voted last month to include more industry representatives on that panel, too.
Some scientists and science advocates aren't excited about industries being regulated by the EPA having a bigger part in creating EPA policy, and point to other efforts President Trump's administration has undertaken to shrink the EPA and undermine its scientific research, and science. "This is completely part of a multifaceted effort to get science out of the way of a deregulation agenda," says Ken Kimmell, the president of the Union of Concerned Scientists. "What seems to be premature removals of members of this Board of Science Counselors when the board has come out in favor of the EPA strengthening its climate science, plus the severe cuts to research and development — you have to see all these things as interconnected."