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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 Energy: Trump administration doubles down on climate skepticism | Suspended EPA health official hits back | Military bases could host coal, gas exports Trump poised to sign bipartisan water infrastructure bill Overnight Health Care — Presented by the Coalition for Affordable Prescription Drugs — Senators face Wednesday vote on Trump health plans rule | Trump officials plan downtime for ObamaCare website | Lawmakers push for action on reducing maternal deaths MORE (D-Del.) and Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseDemocrats won’t let Kavanaugh debate die Senate poised to confirm Kavanaugh after bitter fight Hillary Clinton bursts out laughing about Kavanaugh's 'revenge on behalf of the Clintons' remark 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: Trump administration doubles down on climate skepticism | Suspended EPA health official hits back | Military bases could host coal, gas exports Suspended EPA health official: Administration’s actions mean ‘kids are disposable’ Overnight Energy: Interior reprimands more than 1,500 for misconduct | EPA removes 22 Superfund sites from list | DOJ nominee on environment nears confirmation 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.