Over half of the EPA’s Board of Scientific Counselors have been dismissed to make way for fossil fuel advocates, leading many to worry about the vanishing role of independent scientific review within the agency.
When President Donald Trump promised to create 25 million new jobs in the next decade, he clearly wasn’t talking about Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) employees.
On the heels of proposed budget cuts, the EPA announced plans to eliminate 1,200 employees — roughly 8 percent of the agency’s workforce — by next September.
Since May, Trump-appointed EPA administrator and climate change skeptic Scott Pruitt has informed dozens of scientists on the EPA’s Board of Scientific Counselors (BOSC) that their tenure will not be extended. That would leave over half of the positions on the panel empty and effectively cripple the BOSC, which cancelled five meetings that had been scheduled for summer and fall.
Pruitt hasn’t been shy about his plans to include industry advocates to fill the void. He expressed his intent to increase representation of coal and oil companies on a board designed to regulate those same industries. In an interview in March, Pruitt revealed he does not believe that CO2 emissions are a primary contributor to global warming, leading many to voice concern over whether or not he would be able to perform the duties of his position.
“Having an EPA administrator who claims carbon pollution is not the primary cause of climate change is like having a US surgeon general who says smoking is not the primary cause of lung cancer,” said David Doniger, director of the climate and clean air program at the Natural Resources Defense Council.
Coining the phrase “EPA originalism,” Pruitt is pushing to limit the EPA’s mission and regulatory reach, taking focus away from climate change and redirecting it to issues which spurred the agency’s conception in 1970. This “back to basics” agenda completely disregards that there are new environmental challenges we face today that were not relevant — or fully understood — 40 years ago.
These videos will help explain the EPA’s job cuts and Pruitt’s vision for the agency going forward.
Related front page panorama photo credit: Adapted by WhoWhatWhy from Lake Michigan by Thoth God of Knowledge/Flickr