Sens. Tom Carper, D-Delaware, and Sheldon Whitehouse, D-Rhode Island, questioned Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt on Jan. 9 on his appointment of two advisers to serve on EPA’s Federal Advisory Committees.
The appointments came after public commenters warned that Louis Anthony “Tony” Cox Jr., a researcher for the petroleum industry, and S. Stanley Young, a researcher for the pharmaceutical and petroleum industry, may have financial conflicts of interest, may risk an appearance of impartiality and may lack the scientific expertise necessary to serve.
These appointments were made after EPA began excluding qualified scientists who have received EPA funding from the agency’s nonpartisan scientific advisory committees, citing conflicts of interest.
The senators’ letter to EPA comes after Carper received a redacted document in December, titled “Executive Briefing Summary,” as part of EPA’s response to his May inquiry on EPA’s abrupt dismissal of more than a dozen scientists from one of EPA’s scientific boards. The two-page document, relayed to agency decision-makers, warned of the potential for conflicts of interest for two recent advisory committee appointees.
“We are concerned that some of the newly-appointed members of these nonpartisan scientific advisory committees and boards may have financial and ethical conflicts of interests. In addition, some of these individuals may not possess the appropriate level of scientific expertise or credentials. This underscores our concern that your actions to replace many highly-qualified members of these committees — including the unprecedented action to remove any scientist who was a recipient of EPA grants from eligibility — has led to Federal Advisory Committees that are not balanced in viewpoints and to the appointment of committee members who are either not qualified or not impartial. This approach undermines the process of providing sound, science-based advice that EPA can use as a basis for environmental regulations that are aimed at protecting human health and the environment,” the senators wrote.
In July 2017, the Government Accountability Office accepted a request from Carper and Whitehouse to review EPA’s process for selecting federal advisory committee members after EPA abruptly dismissed scientists from more than a dozen advisory positions. The EPA is home to 23 scientific advisory committees, which advise the agency on environmental science, public health, safety and other subjects central to the EPA’s work. Federal law requires the committees to remain balanced in the viewpoints they represent and functions they perform.
The text of the letter is available at bit.ly/2mj2Jqa.