GAO to examine EPA political appointees’ roles in picking advisory committee members

GAO to examine EPA political appointees’ roles in picking advisory committee members
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Congress’s watchdog agency is looking into the role that political appointees at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) played in picking new scientists and other agency advisory committee members.

In a letter that Senate Democrats made public Tuesday, a Government Accountability Office (GAO) official accepted the request last month by Sens. Tom CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperHillicon Valley: Sweeping new data rules take effect | Facebook, Google already hit with complaints | Schumer slams reported ZTE deal | Senators look to save cyber post | Dem wants answers about Trump's phone security Senator asks Pentagon again for info on Trump's cellphone security Senate Dems to Mnuchin: Don't index capital gains to inflation MORE (D-Del.) and Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseSenate Dems to Mnuchin: Don't index capital gains to inflation EPA extends comment period on controversial science transparency rule House easily passes prison reform bill backed by Trump MORE (D-R.I.) to add the matter to an existing review the agency is conducting.

The GAO agreed last year to examine EPA Administrator Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittOvernight Energy: Pruitt’s security cost .5m in first year | Watchdog clears Perry's use of military, charter flights Congress should invest in science at the EPA Pruitt spent .5 million on security during first year as EPA head MORE’s actions and policies regarding the agency's 22 advisory committees, which advise the EPA on matters like science, health and air quality.

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Pruitt refused last year to renew the terms of many advisory committee members. He then barred anyone receiving EPA research grants for being on the committees and filled many of the empty spots with industry-friendly people.

Last month, Carper and Whitehouse published documents that showed that the EPA’s career staff responsible for reviewing potential advisers had flagged some candidates for potential problems in their qualifications or conflicts of interest, but political appointees overrode the recommendations.

The senators have asked the GAO to examine whether Pruitt’s actions fit with his own directive regarding advisory committee membership and the Federal Advisory Committee Act, the law governing such panels.