The WasteWatcher: The Staff Blog of Citizens Against Government Waste

What a Concept! New Ideas and Diverse Opinions Coming to the EPA!

The WasteWatcher is the staff blog of Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) and the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste (CCAGW). For questions, contact blog@cagw.org.


On October 31, 2017, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt announced a new directive to ensure anyone serving on a Federal Advisory Committee (FAC) for the agency are “independent and free from any real, apparent, or potential interference with their ability to objectively serve as a committee member.”  The new directive requires that anyone who is currently receiving an EPA grant, “either as the principal or co-investigator, or in a position that otherwise would reap substantial direct benefit from an EPA grant” could not serve as an advisor on a FAC.

EPA administrator Pruitt said, “Whatever science comes out of EPA, shouldn’t be political science.  From this day forward, EPA advisory committee members will be financially independent from the Agency.”

According to the EPA website, FACs “are created to obtain advice on a wide range of environmental issues.”  But, William Yeatman at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, which has been a thorn in the Obama’s administration’s highly politicized EPA for some time, gives the lowdown on why Pruitt’s actions are necessary.

For example, one of the FACs, the Clean Air Science Advisory Committee (CASAC), created by Congress in 1977 under the Clean Air Act, advises the EPA on air quality regulation and is supposed to be made up of seven diverse permanent members, including a physician, a National Academy of Sciences Member, and a state representative.  The committee also includes numerous additional scientists.  The committee is extremely powerful and their opinions are more likely to be up held in a courtroom.  Their advice on air quality regulations can require “billions of dollars in compliance costs” and is, according to Yeatman, “the most important technocratic body you’ve never heard of.”

Yeatman describes how during the Obama administration, the EPA stacked the CASAC deck by allowing one member to wear “multiple hats” of what is supposed to be a diverse committee, thus giving the agency more control over the selection process on who could serve.  Equally disturbing is as a CASAC member, some scientists get to review their own EPA-funded scientific research.  Yeatman pointed out that the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee found that six of the seven 2015 CASAC members received a total of $119,217,008 in EPA research grants.

Pruitt’s action will surely bring in more diverse opinions and according to a Nov. 1, 2017, article in The Hill, it would bar “hundreds of expert scientists working in health and environmental fields at universities from serving on the boards” and “would almost certainly increase representation from companies and industry groups on the panels.”

One would certainly hope so.  Many of the best and the brightest work for industry.

Another change Administrator Pruitt is implementing will be to “increase state, tribal, and local government participation” in the FACs in a “spirit of cooperative federalism and recognition” of their unique experiences.  In addition, there will be an emphasis placed on including “individuals from historically unrepresented or underrepresented states and regions.”

Imagine that, true diversity of opinions when it comes to environmental science!

And finally, Administrator Pruitt wants to rotate membership regularly to “promote fresh perspectives” by including new candidates and “avoid prolonged and continuous service.”

Administrator Pruitt believes, and Citizens Against Government Waste agrees, these changes “will improve the integrity of EPA’s scientific advisory committees.”

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