GAO to examine EPA political appointees’ roles in picking advisory committee members
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 Carper (D-Del.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (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 Pruitt’s actions and policies regarding the agency’s 22 advisory committees, which advise the EPA on matters like science, health and air quality.
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.