Biden EPA Ousts Trump Appointees From Advisory Panels

The Biden administration said it is dismissing several EPA advisers picked by former President Donald Trump to ensure the agency is guided by the best possible science.

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael Regan speaks during his confirmation hearing in the Senate last month. (Caroline Brehman/Pool via AP)

(CN) — The Environmental Protection Agency said Wednesday it plans to remove the current members of two advisory committees that are meant to provide scientific insight for the agency, dozens of whom were selected during the Trump administration.

Newly confirmed EPA Administrator Michael Regan directed agency staffers to reestablish the membership of the Science Advisory Board (SAB) and the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASAC).

Researchers on these panels provide independent advice to the EPA administrator on scientific issues underlying the agency’s major policies and actions.

“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,” Regan, who was confirmed by the U.S. Senate earlier this month, said in a statement on Wednesday.

He said that scientific integrity is one of the agency’s foundational values and vowed to use his time as head of the EPA to ensure “that every decision we make meets rigorous scientific standards.” 

According to the agency’s press office, Regan’s decision to reform the committees aims to “reverse deficiencies caused by decisions made in recent years” under former President Donald Trump. 

The press release cited the previous administration’s elimination of key air pollution review panels and its failure to follow the standard process for appointing committee members.

The Trump-era EPA had also moved, for a short period of time, to ban experts who received grant money from serving on the panel. The rule effectively limited the participation of qualified, academic scientists. It was vacated by a federal judge in Manhattan last April. 

Trump and his former EPA administrators Scott Pruitt and Andrew Wheeler were criticized for choosing advisers with industry backgrounds. Wheeler himself had lobbied for coal interests before serving as the EPA boss.

A growing presence of industry experts on the panels led environmental advocates to suspect that conflicts of interest or potential bias of the members could sway policy advice.

“Today we return to a time-tested, fair, and transparent process for soliciting membership to these critically important advisory bodies,” said Regan, who is the first Black man to lead the EPA. He served as secretary of the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality prior to his nomination to the federal post.

The ousted committee members are still allowed to apply to rejoin their respective panels.

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