On Tuesday, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt announced a new policy that will ban scientists with active EPA grants from serving on EPA advisory boards.
The new policy alleviates concerns that EPA science panels are filled with scientists who are biased in favor of the agency’s agenda.
“When you receive that much money, there’s a question that arises about independence,” said Pruitt. From here on out, scientists “will have to choose – either the grant, or service, but not both.”
Critics complain the new policy will exclude the best scientists and will give polluting industries undeserved influence in policy-making.
“It’s a disturbing and short-sighted action,” argues toxicologist Peter Thorne, former chair of the EPA’s main science board. Thorne says there are already policies in place to address conflicts of interest. “I’m really baffled as to why this is necessary.”
The EPA’s three advisory boards were created by Congress to assist the agency with policies and research related to pollution and climate change. Combined, members of the three boards have received $77 million in EPA grants over the past three years. “Those days are over,” vowed Pruitt.
Members of the boards who receive funding from other groups, such as the oil and gas industry, will be reviewed “on a case-by-cause” basis, he added. If a conflict of interest is evident, that individual will have to choose between the funding and the advisory board.
“We can only control what we control, which is the EPA’s grant-making authority,” said Pruitt.
Pruitt’s announcement coincides with three new appointments:
- Texas toxicologist Michael Honeycutt will lead the Science Advisory Board, which reviews scientific information used for EPA regulations.
- Economist Tony Cox will lead the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee, which advises the agency on air regulations.
- Former EPA assistant administrator Paul Gilman will lead the Board of Scientific Counselors, which advises the agency’s main research arm.
Climate advocates have found various reasons to complain about all three appointments, but who is leading which board is not the real issue here. The issue is that serving on the board of an agency which funds your research presents an inherent conflict of interest.
This is how bad science is reinforced. For example, if you are paying scientists to believe in climate change and then having them advise you about climate change, any dissenting opinions are essentially locked out.
And let’s be honest, there are many scientists out there who will abandon the facts in exchange for a big paycheck.
Editor’s note: This is actually a form of corruption, good catch by Pruitt. Of course, by now it is pretty obvious.