EPA Head Names Oil and Gas, Utility Executives to Science Advisory Boards

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WASHINGTON (AP) — The head of the Environmental Protection Agency has named a slate of new members to federal science advisory boards, including several who work for chemical and fossil-fuel interests.

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt announced his appointments Friday, after saying he would block scientists who receive federal research grants from serving. That change ruled out many highly qualified experts from colleges and universities, who the EPA chief said had potential conflicts of interest.

Instead, Pruitt’s new list features members who are more likely to reflect industry-friendly views. They include executives and scientists working for electricity companies, pharmaceutical companies, a chemical industry trade group, a pesticide manufacturer and the oil industry. The list includes several college professors and environmental regulators from conservative-leaning states.

A Republican lawyer, Pruitt said his goal is to introduce more diverse viewpoints and backgrounds among those on the 22 boards, which advise EPA on a wide range of issues including drinking water standards and air pollution limits.

Pruitt named Paul Gilman as the new chair of EPA’s Board of Scientific Counselors. Gilman is a former EPA official who now works as a senior vice president at Covanta, a company that operates plants that generate electricity by incinerating waste.

Gilman replaces Deborah Swackhamer, a retired professor who taught environmental health sciences at the University of Minnesota. She said she was not informed of the change by EPA, but learned about it through media reports.

“All of this is so very unusual, and will really hurt scientific integrity at EPA,” said Swackhamer, who does not benefit from government grants and will remain a member of the panel until her term expires. “Only penalizing academic researchers will result in a very biased board.”

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