EPA administrator Scott Pruitt is draining his part of the swamp, and the mainstream media is not happy about it.
The Washington Post reported Monday that Pruitt plans to reform the agency’s key advisory group by getting rid of scientists who have received grants from the EPA and replacing them with industry experts and government officials.
The agency long has been criticized for decisions that do not take into account practical considerations, such as its move last year to change the Waters of the United States rule to include virtually any depression or puddle that gathers water. Even stock ponds on farms would have been regulated under the rule, pursuant to the Clean Water Act.
“The move represents a fundamental shift, one that could change the scientific and technical advice that historically has guided the agency as it crafts environmental regulations,” the Post reported. “The decision to bar any researcher who receives EPA grant money from serving as an adviser appears to be unprecedented.”
Scientists who receive grants will be replaced on the Science Advisory Board by representatives of regulated industries, academics and environmental regulators from conservative states, and researchers who have a history of critiquing the science and economics underpinning tighter environmental regulations.”
Terry Yosie, who was the director of the board under President Reagan, told the Post the changes represent “a major purge of independent scientists and a decision to sideline the SAB from major EPA decision-making in the future.”
But the scientists being jettisoned are not independent. They have taken money from the government, and in turn, they owe the government – as they would any patron – conclusions that further the government’s narrative. This is how the debunked hockey-stick graph of climate huckster Michael Mann remains a guide for U.S. environmental policy.
And remaking the board with government officials and executives of companies in regulated industries who are most often tasked with responding to government means policy will come not from the enviro echo chamber but from those who must make these policies work.
Pruitt, who also has ordered an end to sue-and-settle cases, in which the agency in the past has sought to legislate through litigation, said the move reflects his concerns about the bias involved in the information the agency has received.
“What’s most important at the agency is to have scientific advisers that are objective, independent-minded, providing transparent recommendations,” Pruitt said in a recent speech at The Heritage Foundation. “If we have individuals who are on those boards, sometimes receiving money from the agency … that to me causes questions on the independence and veracity and the transparency of those recommendations that are coming our way.”
The Post’s concern about seeing the environmental apple cart overturned was notable in a variety of areas. The likely appointees were “sharp proponents of deregulation.” The current members of the committee all “follow strict ethics procedures to avoid conflicts of interest.”
It didn’t state why the “industry-funded scientists” Pruitt would now appoint would not have to meet those standards.
Anne Smith, who manages a consulting firm, complained that Trump cited her firm when saying that meeting our goals under the Paris Climate Accords would cost America 2.7 million jobs but did not “take into account potential benefits” from cutting greenhouse gas emissions.
The Post even revived a quote from 2004, in which John Graham, who served in the George W. Bush administration, called regulations “a form of unfunded mandate that the federal government imposes on the private sector or on state or local governments” – a line any number of conservatives have delivered more recently.
Other than a quote Pruitt delivered in a speech weeks ago, there was not a word of explanation about how this might be a better approach – with advice coming from people who actually had to make government’s rules work, as opposed to academics concerned only with their own areas of study.
There was not even an analysis of how policy might change. Could pollution goals be met in less-costly fashion? If it were up to the Post, we’d never know.