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US EPA bans some scientists from independent advisory boards

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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced on Tuesday it will bar certain scientists from serving on its independent advisory boards, a move critics say could open the way to more industry-friendly advisors on the panels.

The EPA barred scientists who have won agency-awarded grants in the past, billing the step as a way to preserve the independence and diversity of the boards, which provide the scientific input for agency decisions around pollution and climate change regulation.

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“Whatever science comes out of EPA, (it) shouldn’t be political science,” EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, said in a release, adding that committee members will be “financially independent” from the agency.

Senator Tom Carper, the top Democrat on the Senate environment committee, said Pruitt’s decision was part of an EPA effort to “delegitimize the work of nonpartisan scientists.” Carper added, “this crusade endangers the health of every American, and it cannot be tolerated.”

Pruitt signaled the move during a speech last week at the conservative Heritage Foundation, when he questioned the independence of scientists who have won past EPA research grants, and promised to “fix” the situation.

During his election campaign last year, Republican President Donald Trump promised to roll back environmental regulations from Democratic President Barack Obama’s administration, including those limiting carbon dioxide emissions blamed for global warming, to make government more friendly to the drilling, mining, and manufacturing businesses.

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The advisory boards were created by Congress to serve as a check on EPA policies and research. They include the EPA Scientific Advisory Board, the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee, and the Board of Scientific Counselors.

Last year, the SAB questioned an EPA report that concluded that hydraulic fracturing – an oil and gas drilling technology that frees petroleum from underground shale formations – had no “widespread impacts” on drinking water despite evidence of problems in several states. (http://reut.rs/2h2GTrD)

In June, Pruitt decided not to renew the terms of nine members of a separate body, the 18-member Board of Scientific Counselors. One of those members, Michigan State University professor of community sustainability Robert Richardson, told Reuters the move came as a surprise because the work they were doing was “apolitical.”

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The EPA is also expected to announce three new members of the Clean Air advisory committee on Tuesday.

Pruitt is an outspoken doubter of mainstream climate science, a consensus of scientists that carbon dioxide from human use of fossil fuels is a primary driver of global warming, triggering more frequent volatile storms, sea level rise, and droughts.

Pruitt has said he wants to set up a televised debate about the science of climate change between scientists who believe it is driven by humans and those that do not.

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(Reporting By Valerie Volcovici and Timothy Gardner; Editing by Frances Kerry and Marguerita Choy)


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‘The ground is shifting’: Longtime GOP aide sounds the alarm that Trump is putting Arizona in play

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Chuck Coughlin, who once served as a top aide to two different Republican governors in Arizona, is warning that President Donald Trump is putting his state in play for the 2020 presidential election.

In an interview with Politico, Coughlin said his party has expressed real anxiety about the state turning blue next year.

"Republicans are very concerned,” he said. "The ground is shifting."

At the moment, just 45 percent of Arizona voters have a favorable view of Trump, while 53 percent have an unfavorable view. Additionally, the victory of Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) in last year's midterm elections showed that Democrats can be competitive in statewide races in a place that became famous for electing iconic conservative senators such as John McCain and Barry Goldwater.

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PolitiFact corrects conservatives: The NYT Kavanaugh story has not been debunked

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The new report from The New York Times on the allegations against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh contained some stunning new revelations — including that several people tried to contact the FBI to corroborate Deborah Ramirez's assault allegation but were ignored, and that prominent attorney Max Stier alleges he saw Kavanaugh take part in a third assault.

But conservative news sites are now running with the idea that the Times article has been discredited and that the paper has retracted its claims. PJ Media, a prominent right-wing site, ran the headline "New York Times Now Admits New Kavanaugh Accusation Is Fake News."

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Meghan McCain’s pity party for Sean Spicer gets smacked down: ‘He shouldn’t have lied’

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"The View" co-host Meghan McCain tried to help her friend Sean Spicer lauder his reputation on "Dancing With The Stars," but co-host Sunny Hostin quickly put a stop to her efforts.

The former White House press secretary showed off his dance moves Monday in a neon green ruffled top, and McCain insisted his dancing would be impressive at a wedding, if not on television.

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