Dozens of members from the US Environmental Protection Agency’s Science Advisory Board and Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee who served under former President Donald Trump have been dismissed. On March 31, the agency released a press statement announcing the departures, with EPA Administrator Michael Regan citing “scientific integrity” as the reason for cleaning house.
The EPA was fraught with controversy throughout the four years of the Trump administration, as lobbyists of industry—some of whom built careers on fighting the EPA—were appointed to its highest ranks. The press statement cites “deficiencies” in the committees’ activities in recent years, which included rollbacks of protections for clean water, failure to regulate pesticides knowingly harmful to humans and bees, politicization of grant dispersal (which was later reversed in federal court), and a highly criticized plan to limit scientific input, which was also overturned by a federal judge on February 1.
To walk back these policies, the EPA is starting fresh by reassembling who sits on the two advisory bodies and is requesting that current members reapply so they can be vetted under the current administration’s standards. The statement claims that in recent years, members were not appointed under “the standard process.”
“Scientific integrity is one of EPA’s foundational values—and as Administrator, I am committed to ensuring that every decision we make meets rigorous scientific standards,” Regan says in the statement. “Resetting these two scientific advisory committees will ensure the agency receives the best possible scientific insight to support our work to protect human health and the environment. Today we return to a time-tested, fair, and transparent process for soliciting membership to these critically important advisory bodies.”
Normally, there would be more of a transition period from one set of board members to the next, the EPA says. The decision to start with a clean slate in this manner has drawn some criticism from republicans who worked at the EPA during former presidencies. Jeff Holmstead, the former leader of the Office of Air and Radiation under former President George W. Bush, tells The Washington Post that the decision is “ham-handed” and “a mistake in terms of building trust in the agency.” The Post also reports that John Graham, the former chair of the Science Advisory Board under Trump, says he will “respectfully protest the entire process that Administrator Regan has concocted” and will not reapply.
“Science was not in question prior to the previous administration,” Regan tells the Associated Press. “We set the agenda here, based on the president’s vision and we are charged with protecting the public health and the environment.″