Scientists sue EPA over its policy on advisory boards

Scientists sue EPA over its policy on advisory boards
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A group of scientists is suing the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for blocking scientists who receive agency funding from serving on the EPA's advisory boards.

The nonprofit Protect Democracy, representing the Union of Concerned Scientists, filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration on Tuesday, claiming the policy violates the Federal Advisory Committee Act and “is an attack on science itself.”

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“By accusing academic and non-profit grant-funded scientists of having a conflict of interest, [EPA Administrator Scott] Pruitt seeks to portray legitimate, independent scientists—who provide accurate, evidence-based information backed by verifiable, peer-reviewed research in order to inform environmental policy—as just another interest group seeking to advance an agenda,” Protect Democracy wrote in a blog post.

“A policy that excludes the nation’s most eminent scientists not only silences key, unbiased voices in EPA policy development, but signals government disapproval of the former committee members’ work—including, for example, critical climate change research,” the group wrote.

The Union of Concerned Scientists slammed the policy as a way “to make it easier for Pruitt to delay, rollback, or dismantle the EPA regulations that are designed to protect clean air, water, and public health.”

“Under the guise of improving advisory board balance, Pruitt is using this directive to populate advisory boards with industry-funded scientists and state government officials who have made a career fighting federal regulations,” Josh Goldman, a senior policy analyst, wrote about the lawsuit.

The EPA did not immediately return The Hill’s request for comment. An EPA spokesman told CNN that the agency does not comment on pending litigation.

The EPA announced last year that it would no longer allow scientists that receive EPA grants to sit on the agency's advisory boards.

The policy stops hundreds of scientists from advising EPA officials, and likely increases the number of representatives from industries and companies who sit on the boards.

Pruitt said at the time that the policy was created to reduce conflicts of interest.

“Those advisory committees have given us the bedrock of science to ensure that we’re making informed decisions,” Pruitt said in October.

“And when we have members of those committees that have received tens of millions of dollars in grants at the same time that they’re advising this agency on rulemaking, that is not good and that’s not right,” he continued.