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Tonko Condemns Political Interference by Trump Administration in Science Committee Inquiry

Committee leaders call for immediate IG investigation that could implicate top EPA officials

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Washington, June 27, 2017 | comments
“As representatives and lawmakers, we need to be able to trust the testimony of independent scientists that appear before us. This kind of testimony shapes the way we understand our nation, its people, its resources and our role in advancing the leading edge of human knowledge. Any effort to distort testimony or suppress expert accounts on these subjects before Congress is an attack on the soundness of our work. I support my colleagues’ call for an immediate investigation into this alleged political interference with one of America’s foremost scientific experts.” - Rep. Paul Tonko
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WASHINGTONCongressman Paul Tonko (D-NY) offered strong support today for calls to investigate potentially illegal political interference with expert testimony before the House Science, Space & Technology Committee last month. The testimony was given by Dr. Deborah Swackhamer, who testified on recent Trump Administration dismissals from the EPA Board of Scientific Counselors and the stated plan to replace them with representatives from private industry.

“I am deeply troubled by reports that Deborah Swackhamer, the environmental chemist who leads E.P.A.’s Board of Scientific Counselors, was pressured to alter congressional testimony regarding the dismissal of independent scientists from EPA’s panel of expert advisers,” said Rep. Tonko. “As representatives and lawmakers, we need to be able to trust the testimony of independent scientists that appear before us. This kind of testimony shapes the way we understand our nation, its people, its resources and our role in advancing the leading edge of human knowledge. Any effort to distort testimony or suppress expert accounts on these subjects before Congress is an attack on the soundness of our work. I support my colleagues’ call for an immediate investigation into this alleged political interference with one of America’s foremost scientific experts.”

Science Committee members sent a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Inspector General (IG) yesterday requesting an immediate investigation into attempts by senior EPA officials, including EPA Chief of Staff Ryan T. Jackson, to influence Dr. Swackhamer’s testimony after it was written and submitted.

Tonko emphasized that scientific watchdog offices are needed more than ever within the federal government: “With science denial and suppression even reaching the highest levels of our government, objective research is facing unprecedented headwinds in America right now. Our agencies need strong scientific integrity policies so that a watchdog is in place to step up to investigate or deter this type of inappropriate interference. H.R. 1358, the Scientific Integrity Act, would require science watchdogs in every federal agency that supports scientific research. It is critical that we safeguard the science that informs our national defense, health, economic and other public policies that impact millions of Americans. If we want our publicly-funded science to be free, independent and reliable, federal science offices need to be able to protect themselves from political and industry pressures when they arise.”

The leaders of the House Science, Space & Technology Committee also sent a separate letter to EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt outlining their concerns regarding this attempted interference.

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