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 CarperOvernight Health Care — Sponsored by Amgen — ObamaCare signups lag behind last year despite recent surge | Drug company offers cheaper opioid overdose treatment after hiking price 600 percent | CDC calls fentanyl deadliest drug in US Drug company to offer cheaper opioid overdose treatment after hiking price 600 percent Overnight Energy: Trump adviser Kudlow seeks end to electric car, renewable energy credits | Shell to pay execs based on carbon reduction | Justices reject greens' border wall lawsuit MORE (D-Del.) and Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseDems ask if Trump aide Bill Shine is breaking ethics laws Senators want assurances from attorney general pick on fate of Mueller probe Dems vs. Trump: Breaking down the lawsuits against Whitaker 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 PruittTrump moves to relax Obama-era water protections Trump will seek to weaken Obama-era wetlands protections: report The Year Ahead: Dems under pressure to deliver on green agenda 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.