The EPA will review and evaluate its scientific advisory committees to ensure they include “top-tier experts,” agency chief Michael Regan said in a Tuesday email to employees.
The move comes after scientists blasted the Environmental Protection Agency during the Trump administration for allegedly not promoting the most qualified candidates. The agency issued a directive in 2017 prohibiting anyone who receives agency grant money from serving on its science advisory panels.
The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York later found that the EPA couldn’t ban grantees from serving on committees, and the EPA dropped the matter in June when it said it wouldn’t appeal. The science advisory panels aim to provide independent scientific advice and recommendations to the agency.
In an email to staff reviewed by Bloomberg Law, Regan wrote that a dedicated team led by the EPA’s science advisory and scientific integrity official would assess whether the advisory committees are protected against conflicts of interest.
‘Most Vulnerable Among Us’
Regan also wrote that the team will review and update any policies, processes, and practices that “impede the development of critical scientific assessments and prevent the best available science and data from informing the equitable deliver of programs.”
The EPA also will provide more direction and guidance to the EPA’s senior leaders as the review rolls forward, Regan wrote.
“When politics drives science rather than science informing policy, we are more likely to make policy choices that sacrifice the health of the most vulnerable among us,” he wrote, promising not to tolerate “retaliation, retribution, intimidation, bullying, or other reprisals.”
Regan told employees during a Tuesday town hall that he would “fight really hard for more resources for science and for our scientists. For our labs, for our equipment.”
He also said the EPA is under a microscope to get the science right."Given that the world is watching, and expecting us to make decisions based on sound science, we’ve got to get you all the necessary resources that you need,” Regan said.
The meeting was shared with Bloomberg Law by an agency employee who wasn’t authorized to speak publicly.