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EPA sued over ‘undemocratic’ decision to exclude scientists from advisory boards

Image credit: reuters

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is being sued by a group of scientists who allege they are trying to limit the participation of professionals from academia on their advisory boards in favour of those from businesses.

The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), which works on issues relating to climate change, described as “arbitrary” a decision from EPA administrator Scott Pruitt (pictured above, standing next to Donald Trump) in October to exclude anyone from serving on any of the 23 EPA scientific advisory boards if they had received EPA grants to fund any of their research.

Pruitt, an outspoken doubter of mainstream climate theories regarding the impact of human action on the climate, claimed the decision was a way to ensure the panels are free from bias, but critics said the policy would have the opposite effect.

“The open exchange of accurate scientific information is a touchstone of a functioning democracy,” UCS said in a statement.

“The directive is arbitrary, without any factual or legal grounding and violates the Federal Advisory Committee Act, which requires advisory committees to be fairly balanced and protected from inappropriate influence by the appointing authority, according to the lawsuit.”

The lawsuit, filed on Tuesday by the Union of Concerned Scientists in federal court in Boston, reflects rising tensions between environmental advocates and the administration of President Donald Trump over its efforts to roll back climate change regulations to boost industry.

The advisory boards provide the scientific input for agency decisions around pollution and climate change regulation and were created by Congress to serve as a check on EPA policies and research.

In its complaint, the Union of Concerned Scientists called the decision a “purge”, and “an attack on science itself.”

“It portrays legitimate, independent scientists - who provide accurate, evidence-based information backed by verifiable, peer-reviewed research... - as just another interest group,” it said.

It said the EPA’s memorandum on the decision did not prove that receiving EPA grants causes bias, or explain why the decision did not also bar scientists that are affiliated with private industry or local governments.

“The effect is that private industry views will be overweighted,” on the panels, it said.

The complaint asks that the court to prevent the EPA from implementing the policy.

During his election campaign last year, Trump promised to roll back environmental regulations, including those limiting carbon dioxide emissions blamed for global warming, to make government more friendly to the drilling, mining and manufacturing businesses.

Yesterday, it was announced that the US would impose a tariff of 30 per cent on imported solar components, decreasing over the next four years. The move was strongly denounced by China.

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