The Environmental Protection Agency has suddenly cleaned house on one of its central scientific review boards — dismissing half of the members who were told their positions are safe.
The agency’s administrator, Scott Pruitt, has axed nine of the 18 members on the Board of Scientific Counselors, which upholds the standards for some the EPA’s most significant research. Pruitt, a vocal opponent of the agency he now runs, plans to fill those spots with new advisers.
“We’re not going to rubber-stamp the last administration’s appointees,” EPA spokesman J.P. Freire told the Washington Post, which broke the story.
“Instead, they should participate in the same open competitive process as the rest of the applicant pool.”
Freire called the cuts “a clean break” from the Obama administration’s way of doing things.
The board’s advisers are appointed for three-year terms, which are typically renewed even under a new administration. Board members had been assured in President Barack Obama’s final days — and then even after President Trump’s inauguration — that they would be safe for another term.
“I was kind of shocked to receive this news,” Robert Richardson, a Michigan State University sustainability professor, told the Post.
“I’ve never heard of any circumstance where someone didn’t serve two consecutive terms.”
After his ouster, Richardson tweeted, “Today, I was Trumped. I have had the pleasure of serving on the EPA Board of Scientific Counselors, and my appointment was terminated today.”
The EPA has faced some of the most dramatic overhauls in the federal government since Trump took office and began actively dismantling much of the agency.
Trump’s proposed federal budget calls for the EPA to lose 84% of its operating budget, a cut of $ 542,000. The budget said it anticipates the agency will deal with a “lower number of peer reviews.”
The Trump administration also plans to eliminate one quarter of the agency’s 15,000 jobs, curtail many of its state program grants and eliminate its $ 70 million Climate Protection Program, as part of a broader strategy to thwart efforts combating climate change.
Pruitt, who does not believe in the scientific consensus on climate change, sued the EPA 14 times before leading it and took over with the intention of shrinking the agency.