Environmental Justice in the US
EPA to block scientists who got agency funding in the past
By Götz Kaufmann & Guido Blattmann, 2017-11-12
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is known as the world's most solid strongholds for environmental justice concerns nationally, internationally at least as a promoter and provider of academic expertise in the field. As recent as two weeks ago, Scott Pruitt, its current head, announced by end of October that he intends to remove external experts, which have received grants in the past, for acting as advisers to the EPA on science and health topics and to replace them with industry experts and state government officials. Pruitt justifies the move by saying that "the science of the EPA should not be influenced by politics. [...] What's most important at the agency is to have scientific advisers that are objective, independent-minded, providing transparent recommendations."
Putting these measures in place will represent a fundamental and unprecedented shift in the advisory process of the EPA and bar any research who receives EPA grant money from serving in the advisory board of the agency. Not surprising therefore was the reaction of the science community which prompted questions and criticism about this decision, noting that they always followed the strict ethics procedures to avoid conflicts of interest. It comes after the EPA board fired five scientists half a year ago followed by voluntary resignitions of two, Dr Martin and Dr Peter Meyer:
Prior to the Trump era, the EPA was serving well for the the agenda of President Barack Obama helping to push his initiatives for industrial restriction to mitigate climate change. With Scott Pruitt in power, appointed by President Trump, both known as a climate change critics, a crucial turn of EPA's agenda setting seems to take place in line with an industry friendly policy, which facilitate coal mining and power generation. Concerns appear to be valid considering Pruitt's inaugorational remarks as reported by the TIME:
In that light the raised conflict of interest matter seems to be constructed by the underlying political intend to "Remake the EPA".
Image: © Gage Skidmore via Wikimedia Commons