Frankly, this directive is nuts
Thu Nov 2, 2017 7:27am

An update from the post-facts, anti-science Trump administration:
Citing The Bible, The EPA Just Changed Its Rules For Science Advisers


The Environmental Protection Agency announced on Tuesday afternoon sweeping changes to who can advise the agency on its research and regulatory priorities, opening the door to more industry participation.

Effective immediately, scientists who receive EPA funding cannot serve on the agency's three major advisory groups. Some Republican lawmakers have been pushing for similar changes to the agency's advisory boards for years.

"We want to ensure that thereís integrity in the process and that the scientists that are advising us are doing so without any type of appearance of conflict of interest," EPA head Scott Pruitt said at a press conference announcing the directive.

Pruitt used a story from the Book of Joshua to help explain the new policy.

On the journey to the promised land, "Joshua says to the people of Israel: choose this day whom you are going to serve," Pruitt said. "This is sort of like the Joshua principle ó 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 chose the grant. But you canít do both. Thatís the fair and great thing to do."

[Jeeves: So, basically, if you have ever received any funding from the EPA, you cannot be an advisor because you might be feel supportive towards ... the EPA? But if you have only been funded by industries regulated by the EPA, well you will make a fine advisor! This eliminates almost every scientist who has done environmental research except those employed by private industries.]

A large coalition of science organizations, science advocates, environmentalists, and politicians lined up in fierce opposition to the policy changes, arguing the rules not only disqualify top environmental and health researchers from advising but also favor scientists paid for by EPA-regulated companies. They also have pointed out that EPA has strict rules in place for disclosing any conflicts of interest.

"Frankly, this directive is nuts," Al Teich of George Washington University wrote in an email to BuzzFeed News.

"There is an important role for citizen advisors who are not experts in a scientific field and who represent various constituencies on advisory committees," wrote Teich, a research professor of science, technology, and international affairs. "But they should complement, not replace the experts. Disqualifying the very people who know the most about a subject from serving as advisors makes no sense."

Pruitt also announced the new chairs of EPA's advisory committees on Tuesday.

Michael Honeycutt, a controversial toxicologist from Texas, is the new head of EPA's Science Advisory Board, which provides scientific counsel to the agency's top official. Honeycutt once told Congress he didn't agree with the EPA's toxic evaluation for mercury, and he's argued against the agency's ozone standards, according to a 2014 investigation by InsideClimate News and the Center for Public Integrity.

So the EPA's Science Advisory Board is being run by a "toxicologist" who thinks mercury isn't harmful, and staffed by industry scientists.

What could possibly go wrong?