Via instruction from Scott Pruitt, chief administrator, the Environment Protection Agency recently decided not to renew the contracts of the majority of scientists on its Board of Scientific Counselors.
The board acts as an advisory committee to the EPA's Office of Research and Development, offering information and recommendations to the administration regarding current research efforts. Its guidance is used when the EPA creates environmental regulations for important issues like air and water pollution and climate change.
Changes to environmental regulations possible amid Board of Scientific Counselors re-staffing
In an email interview with Mic.com, Deborah Swackhamer, current chair of the board's executive committee, said this move effectively reduces the number of active members from 70 to 11, potentially leaving the board inactive for up to a year.
Members of the BOSC serve three-year terms and generally have their appointments renewed because of the lengthy nature of their projects. If an automatic renewal does not take place, it is because the "expertise [of the board member] was no longer needed according to Swackhamer, and those members must reapply for their positions.
"No one has been fired or terminated," said EPA spokesman J.P. Freire, in an email to the Washington Post. "We're not going to rubber-stamp the last administration's appointees. Instead, they should participate in the same open competitive process as the rest of the applicant pool."
Freire also said the EPA is looking to diversify its applicant pool, which will include experts from the chemical and fossil-fuel industries.
"This latest action is consistent with the actions and statements from EPA administration that they wish to wipe the slate clean, appoint their own advisors, who will be representative of industry," Swackhamer also said in her email.
When the Board of Scientific Counselors is functioning again, its areas of focus and the guidance it lends to the EPA could be drastically different from past efforts. The current administration has been successful in removing or replacing many EPA-issued industry regulations since his inauguration. With such a major staffing change occurring, and some of the new board members potentially being former or current employees of the industries they would be responsible for regulating, it is possible that there will be even more regulatory changes to come.