Sens. Tom Carper, D-Delaware, and Sheldon Whitehouse, D-Rhode Island, led six U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works Democratic senators in a letter Aug. 1 to Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler requesting information about a June executive order instructing agencies to slash one-third of their federal advisory committees in a matter of months.
In the letter, the senators express concern about this order’s potentially harmful impact on environmental policymaking and ask for documents illustrating how EPA is planning to comply with this directive.
“Advisory committees are intended to be a resource for the federal government to obtain expert advice on a wide range of issues,” the senators wrote. “Of the 22 current EPA advisory committees, 11 were created by statute (including the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee, the Science Advisory Board and the Human Studies Review Board), or by presidential action (such as the Good Neighbor Environmental Board), and thus are ineligible for elimination according to the Order… With the Order’s mandate to eliminate some of EPA’s advisory committees entirely, we are concerned that such actions would jeopardize human health and the environment by further limiting the role of science in informing EPA policy.”
The senators continued by pointing out that this executive order is not the first attempt by the Trump administration to eliminate or weaken the role of advisory committees in advising sound policy.
“Prior to the issuance of this order, the EPA was already weakening advisory committees,” the senators continued. “… In 2018, EPA decided to dismiss or not renew the terms of qualified advisory committee scientists, appoint industry representatives to these committees, disband its Particulate Matter Review Panel and the Ozone Review Panel, and ban scientists receiving EPA grant funding from serving on advisory committees. With the Order’s mandate to eliminate some of EPA’s advisory committees entirely, we are concerned that such actions would jeopardize human health and the environment by further limiting the role of science in informing EPA policy.”
Joining Carper and Whitehouse are Sens. Tammy Duckworth, D-Illinois; Chris Van Hollen, D-Maryland; Ed Markey, D-Massachusetts; Ben Cardin, D-Maryland; Jeff Merkley, D-Oregon; and Kristen Gillibrand, D-New York.
In November 2018, Carper and Whitehouse sent a letter to EPA demanding documents on EPA’s abrupt dismissal of scientists from advisory committees.
In January 2018, Carper and Whitehouse questioned then-EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt on his appointment of two advisers may have financial conflicts of interest, may risk an appearance of impartiality and may lack the scientific expertise necessary to serve.
In July 2017, Whitehouse and Carper led other senators in asking the Government Accountability Office to examine the independence of the EPA’s 22 scientific advisory committees. Subsequently, Pruitt barred scientists receiving EPA grants from serving on these committees and replaced many members with industry-backed scientists who have worked directly for corporations and industry groups the EPA is charged with regulating.
A PDF of the letter is available at bit.ly/2MzhSl5.