Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt will soon issue a directive to “ensure the independence and transparency and objectivity with respect to the scientific advice that we’re getting at the agency,” he said on Tuesday.
Pruitt said he would issue a directive next week addressing potential conflicts of interest among EPA scientific advisers. Pruitt made the announcement while speaking at the conservative Heritage Foundation.
Pruitt said many EPA advisers benefit from generous agency-funded research grants, which he says may affect their objectivity. He believes his upcoming directive will address the issue.
“Next week we’re going to fix that,” he said.
Pruitt’s upcoming directive will be the second issued in two weeks. Pruitt signed a directive on Monday aiming to end so-called “sue and settle” agreements EPA enters into with environmentalists.
Republicans have worried about conflicts of interest among EPA advisers for years. House lawmakers passed a bill to block scientists currently taking EPA money from serving on agency advisory boards.
Oklahoma Republican Sen. Jim Inhofe called into question EPA’s process for choosing its scientific advisers since the majority of them benefit from agency funding.
“I have observed EPA, under the Obama Administration, cherry-picking the same allies to serve on this advisory committee and its subcommittees at the expense of having an open and robust process for selecting external advisers,” Inhofe wrote in a 2016 letter to EPA.
“The majority of CASAC members have also received considerable financial support from EPA, which calls into question their independence and therefore the integrity of the overall panel,” Inhofe wrote.
That year, Energy & Environment Legal Institute attorney Steve Milloy found EPA’s Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASAC), which advises the agency on air quality regulations, was stacked with members getting federal funding.
EELI sued EPA to prevent CASAC from meeting, arguing that its objectivity was compromised since 24 of its 26 members had gotten, or are the current recipients of, EPA grants.
In total, panel members received more than $190 million from EPA. Milloy also found 17 of the 20 scientific advisers sitting on EPA’s ozone panel got $192 million in EPA grant.
“Over the years, those individuals, as they’ve served in those capacities, guess what’s also happened?” Pruitt told an audience at the Heritage Foundation. “They’ve received monies through grants, and sometimes substantial monies through grants.”
“And if we have individuals that are on those boards receiving money from the agency, sometimes going back years and years, to the tune of literally tens of millions of dollars over time,” Pruitt said, “that to me causes question on the independence and the veracity and the transparency of those recommendations that are coming our way.”
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