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Scientists suing the EPA to protect integrity of advisory boards

Scientists have filed a lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for what they believe are unlawful changes in the way the organization assembles its advisory boards. The Union of Concerned Scientists claims that the new legislation is not justified and also violates the Federal Advisory Committee Act, which protects the integrity of advisory committees.

Last October, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt announced that any scientist who received EPA grants for research funding would not be allowed to serve on any of the agency’s 23 scientific advisory boards. Critics say that it is an arbitrary move, and that the agency is lacking in any real facts to support the enforcement of its new appointment system.

Joshua Goldman is a senior policy analyst for the Union of Concerned Scientists. “The EPA hasn’t bothered to make the case for why EPA grants create a conflict of interest,” Goldman said in a press release. “Mr. Pruitt simply can’t justify this decision, especially when there are no such restrictions on scientists who get funding from the industries the EPA oversees.”

Goldman said that this is yet another example of the Trump administration’s refusal to base its policies on impartial scientific evidence.

“This is an abuse of power and an affront to the scientific integrity of the EPA and the federal government,” said Goldman. “This directive singles out scientists from the nonprofit and academic sector – recognized experts in their field who want to serve the public – and asks them to choose between public service and their scientific work.”

The lawsuit was filed on Tuesday in the United States District Court by Protect Democracy, a nonpartisan nonprofit organization. The scientists are asking the court to repeal the EPA’s new regulation before it is implemented and disrupts the fair balance of the advisory committees.

“When we ban America’s top scientists from providing their expertise to the EPA, we all suffer,” said Goldman. “EPA advisory boards examine vital questions, like what makes for unsafe levels of pollution in the air and the amount of chemical exposure that constitutes a health risk. EPA rules need to be based on the best available science. This directive fundamentally undermines the EPA’s ability to carry out its mission of protecting all Americans.”

By Chrissy Sexton, Staff Writer

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