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

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

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 CarperLobbying World Overnight Energy: BLM staff face choice of relocation or resignation as agency moves | Trump says he's 'very much into climate' | EPA rule would expand limits on scientific studies Democrats give Warren's 'Medicare for All' plan the cold shoulder MORE (D-Del.) and Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseRepublicans raise concerns over Trump pardoning service members Overnight Energy: Pelosi vows to push for Paris climate goals | Senate confirms Brouillette to succeed Perry at Energy | EPA under attack from all sides over ethanol rule Pelosi: Congress has 'iron-clad' commitment to climate crisis 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 PruittIs Big Oil feeling the heat? Overnight Energy: EPA delays board's review of 'secret science' rules | Keystone pipeline spill affecting more land than thought | Dems seek probe into Forest Service grants tied to Alaska logging EPA delays advisers' review of 'secret science' rules MORE’s actions and policies regarding the agency's 22 advisory committees, which advise the EPA on matters like science, health and air quality.

ADVERTISEMENT

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.