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Tonko to Pruitt: Please Explain Dismissals from EPA Board of Scientific Counselors

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Washington, May 18, 2017 | comments
“We have serious concerns about this action that has prematurely removed qualified experts from EPA’s Board and deprives EPA of critical scientific and technical expertise needed to support the Agency’s mission to protect human health and the environment,” wrote the six Democratic Committee leaders.
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WASHINGTON – Congressman Paul Tonko joined with other Democratic leaders of the Energy and Commerce Committee and the Science, Space & Technology Committee to send a letter to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt today raising questions about the recent dismissal of nine members of the EPA’s Board of Scientific Counselors. 

The letter highlights concerns, as reported in the New York Times and the Washington Post, that the Board’s independent scientific credibility could be diminished by the addition of industry advocates and partisan motivations.  The letter also calls on Pruitt to ensure that EPA adheres to federal law and conflict of interest regulations when appointing new members to the Board.

“We have serious concerns about this action that has prematurely removed qualified experts from EPA’s Board and deprives EPA of critical scientific and technical expertise needed to support the Agency’s mission to protect human health and the environment,” wrote the six Democratic Committee leaders.

The EPA Board of Scientific Counselors was established in 1996 to provide expert advice on EPA’s research and development work, and operates consistent with the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA). The Board comments on strategic research plans, laboratory management, and budget and staffing issues, and – pursuant to FACA – is required to select Board members that represent a balanced set of views, expertise, and other relevant factors. 

“We are also seriously concerned that you now intend to fill these newly opened positions with members who will serve as advocates for specific policies rather than as unbiased experts,” the Members continued.

As part of their inquiry into the dismissal of the nine Board members, the six committee leaders requested:

1.         All communications, records, and analysis related to EPA’s determination not to renew the appointments of Board members whose first terms ended on April 27, 2017. 

2.         The outreach plan prepared by the EPA’s Designated Federal Officer (DFO) for the Board as well as the draft grid of potential nominees also prepared by the DFO. 

3.         What systems and processes EPA intends to implement in order to ensure that any new Board members are in compliance with all applicable ethics regulations and free of any conflicts of interest or appearances of being unable to provide impartial advice.

The letter was signed by Energy and Commerce Ranking Member Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), Science, Space, and Technology Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), both Committees’ Oversight Subcommittee Ranking Members Diana DeGette (D-CO) and Don Beyer (D-VA), and both Committees’ Environment Subcommittee Ranking Members Paul Tonko (D-NY) and Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR).

 

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