Union of Concerned Scientists Conference Call on EPA

UCS held a conference call on May 10th to address slashes to the EPA Board of Scientific Counselors. We attended the call and highlight the actions you can take in the following summary:

EPA Board of Scientific Counselors Conference Call sponsored by the Union of Concerned Scientists 5/10/17

Although renewals were expected, Scott Pruitt failed to renew the contracts of all (nine) members on the Board of Scientific Counselors (BOSC) who were up for renewal.  This action leaves 9 scientists on the BOSC.  The BOSC is the advisory committee that reviews the work of scientists within the EPA’s Office of Research and Development (ORD). The replacement was made replace the members with industry experts who “understand the impact of regulations on the regulated communities.”  Key points from the call conducted by Robert Richardson and Gianna Reeve were as follows:

1. Typical tenure is comprised of two three-year terms.

2. To avoid conflict of interest, scientists on the BOSC may not receive funding from EPA during their tenure.

3. The purpose of the BOSC is to review literature and to provide technical guidance relevant to the in-house research conducted by the EPA that is conducted by 6 Research Programs.

4. Regulatory work conducted by the EPA and extra-mural research sponsored by the EPA are outside the purview of the BOSC.

5. Because of the highly technical nature of the members, appointment to date has been based on the members having expertise in the fields they represent.

6. Most of the members of the BOSC were chairs or vice-chairs of the advisory boards that advised the 6 EPA in-house Research Programs.

7. The BOSC provides technical assistance, but does not dictate research agenda.  Each Research Program has a strategic action plan that guides its research.

8. There are already in existence stakeholder advisory committees that advise the EPA on effects of regulation on industry and communities.  

9. It is not clear how non-scientists could provide technical guidance nor how industry-related individuals could provide guidance without conflict of interest.

10. Non-renewal is within the right of the EPA, but citizens can keep abreast of who is appointed and protest potential conflicts of interest or lack of expertise.

The action of non-renewal is part of a larger shift in policy against a role for science in decision making that includes:

1. Removal of databases from government websites

2. Removal of specific topics from government websites

3. Currently on-going review by the Department of the Interior of existing committees, grant competition topics and processes in place, with some being frozen, and failure to fill vacant science-related positions at various levels of government including advisory committees.

4. There is a Scientific Advisory Board Act that will be going to the Senate for vote that will further limit the role of science in the legislative process.  {Learn about it, call your senator, ask to vote against it}

5. Similar actions that place the interests of industry before the health interests of the population have been taken before.  In 2002 President Bush changed the composition of a CDC advisory board in order to prevent it from recommending a regulation that would reduce exposure to lead.


Disclosure:  The author is not versed in this topic.  Any errors included in this summary are unintentional misunderstandings. Emily Arcia, Ph.D. 5/11/17

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