Michael Regan, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, has been in office for less than a month but is already under fire for allegedly “politicizing” the policy-making process.
Mr. Regan, who was narrowly confirmed by the Senate for his post earlier this month, surprised many this week by announcing the purge of more than 40 outside science consultants from two high-profile EPA advisory panels.
The dismissals specifically targeted Trump-era appointees to the Science Advisory Board and the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee. In announcing the move, Mr. Regan described the decision as an agency-wide “reset” meant to restore “scientific integrity” after four years of the Trump administration.
“Today, we return to a time-tested, fair, and transparent process for soliciting membership to these critically important advisory bodies,” the EPA administrator said.
The Science Advisory Board, created by federal law in 1978, is tasked with reviewing the “scientific and technical information being used by the EPA” for the purpose of “regulations.” It is also responsible for reviewing EPA research programs that receive federal funding.
Similarly, the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee reviews all the scientific information and data used by the EPA when promulgating regulations on air quality and pollution.
Given the influence both panels have on policy-making, Mr. Regan’s dismissal of Trump-era appointees has sparked accusations of political meddling.
James Taylor, the interim president of the conservative Heartland Institute, told The Washington Times that the dismissals represented a “sad day for science, transparency, and representative government.”
“Michael Regan’s purge of EPA scientists and policy experts who may offer critical thinking in response to the Biden agenda is a complete politicization of science within our federal government,” Mr. Taylor said. “This shows that the Biden EPA cares nothing about science, the scientific method, or critical thinking.”
Mr. Regan has done little to calm such critiques. In fact, when announcing the dismissals, the EPA administrators repudiated former President Donald Trump for barring “academics and nongovernment officials who received EPA research grants” from serving on the committees.
Governmental watchdog groups, however, praise the Trump-era initiatives for expanding transparency within two powerful advisory bodies that hold significant sway over environmental regulations.
Mr. Regan and the White House defended the decision to dismiss the appointees Wednesday, alleging that Mr. Trump stacked the committees with energy executives, rather than scientists during his tenure.
The American Chemistry Council, the largest trade association representing chemical companies, pushed back on that characterization. The group noted that the Trump-era committees approved strong regulations and guidelines on air pollution and fracking.
“The [two] standing committees have consistently offered objective, balanced and science-based advice,” said a representative for the council. “While we understand the Biden Administration has concerns about changes made to the [committees] by the Trump Administration, taking this action is irregular.”
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