‘Whatever science comes out of EPA," the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt, declared Tuesday, "shouldn’t be political science." We couldn’t agree more. But this is rich coming from one of the most politically motivated science chiefs of the times.
Pruitt issued a new directive Tuesday, barring anyone who receives EPA grant money from serving on its scientific advisory boards. The moved stripped six academics and researchers from advisory panels and effectively bars the federal government in the process of rulemaking to hear from recognized experts in their fields.
There is nothing wrong with enforcing or strengthening walls to prevent conflicts of interest. But the EPA’s advisory boards already adhered to strict ethics guidelines. The administration offered no concrete examples of a corrupted advisory process. It chose to disqualify an entire field of outside experts rather than to toughen the rules or to deal with individual cases as they arise. And most tellingly, Pruitt did not apply these same rules to experts who accept research funding from private industries regulated by the EPA.
Pruitt made a political name for himself during his time as Oklahoma’s attorney general by questioning man-made climate change and by suing the very environmental agency he now leads. This directive is merely an effort to marginalize scientists the administration doesn’t want to hear and to give the nation’s largest polluters a bigger hand in decisions affecting America’s water, air and public health.