Scott Pruitt Primes the E.P.A. for a Fossil-Fuel Takeover
In an unprecedented move, Environmental Protection Agency head Scott Pruitt announced a new, far-reaching directive barring scientists who receive E.P.A. grants from serving on the agency’s advisory boards. Though he pitched the directive as a means to stamp out conflicts of interest—“When we have members of those committees that have received tens of millions of dollars in grants at the same time that they’re advising this agency on rule-making, that is not good and that’s not right,” he said at an E.P.A. event on Tuesday—the move will effectively purge the boards of top academic researchers, including experts on environmental science, clearing the way for industry representatives to take their place.
Invoking a story from the Book of Joshua in which Joshua instructs the pagans to “choose this day whom you will serve,” either God or the “gods of your fathers,” Pruitt explained that issuing the directive was “the fair and great thing to do.” “This is sort of like the Joshua principle—that as it relates to grants from this agency, you are going to have to choose either service on the committee to provide counsel to us in an independent fashion or choose the grant,” he explained. “But you can’t do both.” He signed the new order with known climate-change deniers Sen. Jim Inhofe and Rep. Lamar Smith by his side.
With the same stroke, Pruitt appointed new chairs to three of the agency’s boards: Michael Honeycutt, the head of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality’s toxicology division, will serve as the head of the Science Advisory Board. Honeycutt has downplayed concerns over ozone standards as “alarmism,” adding that “most people are indoors for 90 percent of the time.” Tony Cox, who produces research for major industry groups and leads private consultancy Cox Associates, will lead the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee; Cox has worked on behalf of the oil industry’s main lobbying group, the American Petroleum Institute, and once suggested that rising global temperatures would prevent the death of the elderly. To run the Board of Scientific Counselors, Pruitt appointed Paul Gilman, an executive at waste incinerator company Covanta. New board members are expected to be announced next week.
Though it alarmed the scientific community, the directive was par for the course for Pruitt, who has suggested that climate-change science is a debatable matter. So far under his leadership, the agency’s Web site has been scrubbed of all references to climate change, scientists have been shunned in favor of industry insiders, and conference talks addressing climate change have been abruptly canceled.
Pruitt did not say whether restrictions will be put in place to prevent industry representatives from providing advice on regulations that could help their businesses, a fact Democrats were quick to point out. “Scott Pruitt’s latest move to reject qualified scientists to make room for industry-sponsored individuals isn’t fooling anyone,” said Sen. Tom Carper, the top Democrat on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. “Since he arrived at the agency, Mr. Pruitt has repeatedly worked to silence E.P.A. scientists, deny the facts, and discredit science inconvenient to his agenda; now he’s trying to get rid of the scientists altogether.” Rush Holt, the chief executive officer of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, was even more skeptical. Given the new directive, Holt said in a statement that the association “question[s] whether the E.P.A. can continue to pursue its core mission to protect human health and the environment.”
via Vanity Fair http://bit.ly/2xvuIXg
November 1, 2017 at 07:35AM