EPA Chief Set to Bar Government-Funded Experts From Agency’s Science Panels

The Daily Signal cites William Yeatman on several points about the laxness in EPA scientific standards and financial regulation.

Try asking the nation’s top environmental protection official to “describe the shortcomings of the scientific evidence for climate change,” and what type of data he might find persuasive on the subject.

You might shake loose news of major policy changes designed to end what President Donald Trump’s team sees as potential conflicts of interest that undermine the value of scientific advice to the government agency.

That opportunity came Tuesday for an audience member during The Heritage Foundation’s annual President’s Club meeting in Washington, where Scott Pruitt, the former Oklahoma attorney general who now heads up the Environmental Protection Agency, took on that question.

Pruitt revealed that he will issue a directive aimed at ensuring the “independence, transparency, and objectivity” of experts who serve on the agency’s scientific advisory boards. He suggested he may rule out science advisers with a history of taking EPA grants, sometimes “to the tune of literally tens of millions of dollars.”

William Yeatman, a senior fellow with the Washington-based Competitive Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank, said he credits Pruitt for compelling the EPA to live up to its own standards. Yeatman cites reports from the agency’s own Office of Inspector General and from Congress, including:

—EPA has taken the position that receipt of government grants doesn’t constitute a financial conflict of interest. However, the agency’s own Peer Review Handbook states that grants can be a conflict of interest if the advisory board plans to address work performed under the research grant.

—Six of the seven members of the 2015 Clean Air Science Advisory Committee, appointed by President Barack Obama, received a total of  $119.2 million in EPA research grants, according to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. The panel, the most important of the science advisory boards, recommends national ambient air quality standards.

—The Obama administration’s prior clean air panel cited its own work more than 700 times, according to the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee.

“The data suggest that these grants do indeed raise a conflict of interest as EPA defines it,” Yeatman said in an email to The Daily Signal. “So I welcome this reform effort to bring integrity to the advice EPA receives from outside advisers. For better or for worse, there are other federal sources of funding for science (e.g., NSF or NIH). It just makes sense to have EPA comport with its own rules.”

His references were to the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health.

Read the entire article at The Daily Signal.