Scientists and Democratic lawmakers during a hearing Tuesday raised concerns over the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) over actions by the Trump administration they say are having a negative impact on science boards.
The hearing came a day after a report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) that found the agency skirted rules when appointing industry leaders to the boards.
Thomas Burke, a professor at Johns Hopkins University who previously served as the deputy administrator for the Office of Research and Development, said the Science Advisory Board is there to “make sure the agency does the right science and gets the science right.”
A decision under former EPA administrator Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittUnderstanding the barriers between scientists, the public and the truth Overnight Energy & Environment — Biden makes return to pre-Trump national monument boundaries official Trump-era EPA board member sues over firing MORE barred those who receive EPA research grants from serving on the committee. There was no similar ban for scientists who receive industry funding.
“When you omit those folks from the talent pool of our national, most prestigious advisory board its a skewing that eliminates the best minds,” Burke said. “What other areas of science would you omit the best minds at the start and not consider the potential conflict of interest of people who have direct financial interest or have received compensation from companies that have a very big vested interest in the subject at hand?”
Some Republicans on the committee pushed back both at the accusations against the EPA and its boards as well as the hearing itself.
“I would almost take exception that the people on the committee are the best and the highest qualified,” said Rep. Roger MarshallRoger W. MarshallGOP senators introduce bill targeting Palestinian 'martyr payments' Democrats see Christmas goal slipping away Former Sen. Bob Dole dies at 98 MORE (R-K.S.), saying in his experience in medicine, preeminent experts are already stretched too thin with other demands. He said the committee was a chance for former EPA employees to gripe about Trump’s executive order to eliminate many committees.
Committee Chair Eddie Bernice JohnsonEddie Bernice JohnsonDemocrats press drillers for methane leak data Eddie Bernice Johnson endorses Texas lawmaker for her House seat The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by ExxonMobil - Arbery case, Biden spending bill each test views of justice MORE (D-Texas) said Trump’s executive order was “clumsy at best and malicious at worst.”
“There’s no reason to assume one-third of committees have outlived their usefulness,” she said.