United States environmental chief to recuse himself from court cases

Posted May 09, 2017

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), under the Trump administration, has "eviscerated" a key scientific review board in order to replace them with industry professionals, the board's chair has said.

Scientists on the board said they were told during the Obama administration that their terms would be renewed, as they normally were for at least a second term.

Richardson, who on Saturday tweeted, "Today, I was Trumped", said that he was at the end of an initial three-year term but that members traditionally have served two such stints.

Joe Arvai, who sits on the 47-member Scientific Advisory Board at the EPA and directs the University of Michigan's Erb Institute for Global Sustainable Enterprise, has noted his board already includes industry scientists.

Several media outlets reported on the ouster of Richardson and others on the 18-member Board of Scientific Counselors, including the New York Times and the Washington Post.

Other media reports had Friere saying the changes were meant to allow new EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt - who has been a long-standing critic of the agency - to bring in new advisers, and that he would consider replacing academics on the board with people from industry as long as the appointments did not lead to conflicts of interest.

Freire said there was no specific plan to seek out more industry appointees for the Board of Scientific Counselors.

The decision is the latest in a series of moves that could benefit industries whose pollution is regulated by the agency.

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"I do not think I am speculating when I say that this is a political move", she said. "Instead, they should participate in the same open competitive process as the rest of the applicant pool", he said.

Freire added, "We're making a clean break with the last administration's approach". Ponisseril Somasundaran, a chemist at Columbia University who was dismissed from the board, explained that most members of the council are academics.

The panel of experts, who typically serve two consecutive three-year terms, helps guide the agency's research office.

Ryan Jackson, Pruitt's chief of staff, noted in an email that all the board members whose terms are not being renewed could reapply for their positions.

Gina McCarthy, former EPA administrator, reacts to the EPA under Donald Trump removing the climate change section from its web site, and talks about the value of environmental protections to "normal human beings".

The measure would effectively prevent many scientific experts from serving on the oversight board.

EPA spokesman J.P. Freire said the scientist's descriptions of being fired were not accurate. The EPA Science Advisory Board Reform Act - which has yet to be taken up by the Senate - would prohibit anyone who has an ongoing research grant from the EPA to serve on the board, and prohibits board members from applying for grants for three years after they step down from the panel.