A former senior Environmental Protection Agency official slammed President Donald Trump and his coal lobbyist EPA administrator for launching an "assault" on scientific independence and its role in shaping environmental policy.
"For years, the fossil-fuel industry has lobbied to weaken air pollution standards," Bernard D. Goldstein, a senior EPA official who served under the Reagan administration, wrote in the Washington Post. "It may now get its wish."
Last week, Goldstein noted, the EPA's Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee — which he chaired during his time in the Reagan administration — met to "devise a new standard for airborne particle pollution," a measurement that quantifies how many of these tiny particles that get into the human lung are legally allowed.
"But EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler, a former coal-industry lobbyist, has hobbled the committee’s long-standing process to the point that its members cannot provide an informed opinion consistent with the Clean Air Act’s mandate of being 'requisite to protect the public health,'" he wrote.
Goldstein added that if he were still at the EPA, he would resign in protest over such kneecapping.
Because the EPA has "its own in-house science arm, the agency’s political leadership can exert pressure to get the answers it wants," the former official wrote. "As a counterbalance, it is necessary to have external advisory processes through independent bodies such as CASAC."
Last October, Wheeler eliminated the subcommittees working to establish the airborne particle standard. Now, "the full weight of providing advice now falls solely on the seven CASAC members," Goldstein wrote.
Anne Gorsuch, President Ronald Reagan's first EPA administrator, "was criticized for attempting to control the statements of EPA scientists and cutting the agency’s science budget."
"She did nothing that even came close to the assault on the independence and expertise of the scientific advisory processes carried out by Wheeler and his predecessor, Scott Pruitt," Golstein concluded.