EPA chief reinstates science advisory board he dismantled
WASHINGTON (AP) – The head of the Environmental Protection Agency said on Thursday he had fully reinstated one of the two main advisory boards he dismantled earlier this year in a bid to promote “scientific integrity” of the agency.
The new, seven-member Clean Air Science Advisory Board includes four scientists who previously served on the group, two of whom were on the board when it was dismantled in March. The five women and two men on the panel include three people of color, making it the most diverse panel since the committee was created over 40 years ago.
“From the start of my tenure, I was committed to ensuring that science is restored as the backbone of everything the EPA does to protect people and the environment from pollution,” said EPA administrator Michael Regan in a statement. The new advisory group will provide “credible and independent expertise to EPA reviews of air quality standards that is based on scientific evidence,” he said.
Regan said advisers appointed under the Trump administration were too business-friendly, adding that his March 31 “reset” of the Clean Air Panel and Science Advisory Board would return the EPA to its practice of s ” rely on the advice of a balanced group of experts.
Regan’s overhaul removed more than 45 members from both advisory boards, some of whom do not expire this year. The panels provide scientific expertise and recommendations for air quality standards and other policies aimed at protecting public health and the environment.
The new chair of the clean air committee is Lianne Sheppard, professor of environmental and occupational health sciences and biostatistics at the University of Washington. Sheppard, who has expertise in epidemiology, biostatistics and exposure assessment, served on the committee from 2015 to 2018.
Other members include James Boylan, an air protection officer at the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. Boylan served on the panel under President Donald Trump and was part of the committee when it was dismantled, along with Dr. Mark Frampton, a physician and professor emeritus of medicine at the University of Rochester Medical Center.
Judith Chow, professor of atmospheric sciences at the Nevada-based Desert Research Institute, was on the panel from 2015 to 2018.
Also on the committee are Michelle Bell, professor of environmental health at Yale University; Christine Fuller, associate professor of environmental health at Georgia State University; and Alexandra Ponette-González, associate professor of geography and environment at the University of North Texas.
Members of the much larger Scientific Advisory Board were not selected. Both panels pay allowances to members for their services.
Republican Representatives James Comer of Kentucky and Ralph Norman of South Carolina criticized Regan for what they say was an unwarranted “purge” based more on politics than science. Comer is the top Republican on the House Oversight Committee, while Norman is the top Republican on the panel’s environment subcommittee.
Democrats said a 2017 decision by Trump’s first EPA administrator Scott Pruitt to remove many university scientists from advisory boards tilted them in favor of the chemical and fossil fuel industries. Pruitt banned scientists from serving on advisory boards if they had received research grants from the EPA. Pruitt later resigned amid ethical scandals, but his policies were largely continued under his successor and former deputy, Andrew Wheeler.