The scientists accused EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt of giving industry-friendly researchers control and then defending his decision in doublespeak.
The Environmental Protection Agency dismissed its top science counselors without telling them in advance, two of them told HuffPost on Wednesday.
On Tuesday, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt announced a new rule barring scientists who receive EPA research funding from serving on the agency’s three main advisory panels: the Science Advisory Board, the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASAC) and the Board of Scientific Counselors. The move cleared the way for Pruitt to name industry-backed researchers to take control of the boards, which are meant to serve as a check on policies at the agency.
The head of the Science Advisory Board, Peter Thorne, and the head of the Board of Scientific Counselors, Deborah Swackhamer, said they learned from news reporters that they had been replaced.
“This is really a destruction of the scientific integrity at EPA,” said Thorne, a University of Iowa professor of occupational and environmental health who has served as the head of the Science Advisory Board since 2015. “It’s disheartening to see.”
Thorne is is still listed as the Science Advisory Board chair on the EPA’s website, and said he had not heard anything about changes to the board until a reporter called after Pruitt’s press conference on Tuesday afternoon. Thorne said he had hoped to serve another two years as chair, even as other members of the advisory board have been fired or have quit to protest Pruitt’s antagonistic approach to scientists, but now his term is over.
Ana Diez Roux, the head of CASAC, was also dismissed as chair. She did not return an email and call from HuffPost.
“Administrator Pruitt issued a directive yesterday to ensure independence, geographic diversity and integrity in EPA science committees,” an EPA spokesman said in a statement to HuffPost. “Membership on these three boards consists of qualified scientists who will help strengthen public confidence in EPA science.”
Pruitt announced on Tuesday that he was replacing Thorne with Michael Honeycutt, the head of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality’s toxicology division, to serve as the head of the Science Advisory Board.