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.
“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.
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.”
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.
(Reporting By Valerie Volcovici and Timothy Gardner; Editing by Frances Kerry and Marguerita Choy)
The Republicans’ impeachment lawyer made 2 huge mistakes in questioning Gordon Sondland
Ambassador Gordon Sondland delivered complex and convoluted impeachment testimony on Wednesday about his involvement in President Donald Trump’s Ukraine scandal. He gave detailed evidence recounting the president and the rest of the administration’s involvement in his effort to get Ukraine to launch investigations of Trump’s political opponents — including by leveraging a potential White House meeting and a hold on military aid.
But he also, to the Republicans’ delight, left some ambiguity about how much Trump had been involved in the effort to leverage the aid, saying that he had “presumed” Ukraine’s announcement of the investigations would release the hold. And he noted that, in one phone call the president — as the scheme was slowly being uncovered — Trump angrily denied there was a quid pro quo.
Rick Santorum smacked down for claiming Sondland testimony helped Trump
On Wednesday's edition of CNN's "Cuomo Prime Time," former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) tried to argue that the testimony of E.U. Ambassador Gordon Sondland actually helped President Donald Trump — and was promptly challenged.
"I think the Democrats had a good morning. I don't think they had a good afternoon," said Santorum. "I think what when the Republicans actually started questioning Sondland about the details, I think it fell apart a little bit."
"How so?" asked Chris Cuomo.
"He said the president never said any of these things to him," said Santorum. "In fact, what the president said, he quoted what the president said is, no, there's no quid pro quo. What he says is, well, I'm surmising, this is what I'm just sort of gathering. Did anything come from the president? No, it came from Rudy Giuliani."
‘The cost of acquitting Donald Trump just went up’ for the Republicans: MSNBC’s Joy Ann Reid
MSNBC host Joy Ann Reid explained during the post-hearing wrap-up that things aren't looking good for Republican senators up for reelection in 2020.
In the wake of EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland's testimony, things are getting more difficult for Republicans faced with a vote on impeachment.
"Even if [the numbers] don't move, the problem is going to be a lot of these people have to run for re-election, letting the president off the hook when it's pretty clear what happened," Reid said. "This is pretty simple, and if I'm Cory Gardener (R-CO), I'm not feeling great."
Brian Williams noted that Rep. Will Hurd (R-TX) is one of the many Republicans "who's leaving town on a fast horse." If anyone could be pealed off by Democrats, Williams thinks it is Hurd.