The future for the environment is looking even grimmer as news that EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt decided not to renew the contracts of half the scientists on its Board of Scientific Counselors hits the public eye. Every term lasts three years and most members usually serve two terms, the limit for the board. The three-year term ended on April 30, and many of the members who had yet to serve their second term were thrown by surprise to hear that instead of receiving a second term, they would be receiving the boot. Nine of the board’s 18 scientific experts found the news out by email reports The Atlantic.
“Today, I was Trumped,” Robert Richardson, an ecological economist and associate professor at Michigan State University, tweeted on Friday. “I have had the pleasure of serving on the EPA Board of Scientific Counselors, and my appointment was terminated today.” On Sunday, Richardson told The Washington Post he was “kind of shocked” to learn he would have to reapply for his current position. “I’ve never heard of any circumstance where someone didn’t serve two consecutive terms,” he said.
Deborah Swackhamer, chair of the board, told The Guardian: “The committee has been eviscerated. We assumed these people would be renewed and there was no reason or indication they wouldn’t be. These people aren’t Obama appointees, they are scientific appointees. To have a political decision to get rid of them was a shock.”
Scientists on the board covered topics from toxic water pollution to climate change to chemical safety. Most of the board was previously made up of people from academia. That will likely change with this notice.
Most frightening is that the EPA plans to replace the scientists with representatives from big industries. This will most definitely result in industry-aligned decisions coming from the agency, which greatly threatens environmental regulations. EPA spokesman J.P. Freire explained the agency’s move in a different light, saying that the EPA is try to diversify their panel by “including experts from chemical and fossil-fuel companies,” following The Atlantic.
Although Pruitt is denying that the move was political, bipartisanship aside, the environment will be losing some of its most authoritative advocates. The call for science-based policies has been heard loudly from the public through mass civil actions such as the March for Science. It is certain that the country will continue to stand strong in her desire for science, despite political lines.