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The Sherburne County (Sherco) Generating Station, a coal-fired power plant owned by Xcel Energy and located in Becker, Minnesota, shown in 2016. (Photo: Tony Webster/Flickr/cc)

'Ideology Trumping Science': Independent Advisory Board Says Trump EPA Is Ignoring Scientific Evidence as It Shreds Regulations

Former members of the agency's Science Advisory Board say EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler is "sidelining" the panel.

Julia Conley

A federal panel of independent scientific experts says the EPA has flouted the panel's guidance in its efforts to roll back a number of Obama-era regulations, resulting in an agency push that will affect public health for millions of Americans without the consideration of environmental science.

The EPA's Science Advisory Board (SAB) wrote in four draft reports published online Tuesday that the agency's published revisions to at least four regulations "conflict with established science," according to the Washington Post.

Although two-thirds of the SAB's current members are Trump appointees, Juliet Eilperin wrote in the Post, the panel "found serious flaws" in the proposed changes to rules governing pollution, gas mileage, and how regulations are written.

The revisions and regulatory rollbacks in question include:

  • a reversal of a rule that limits the use of pesticides and other chemicals near waterways, which the SAB says "neglects established science" that has shown how contamination from such toxins can pollute drinking water
  • a reduction in mileage targets for vehicles, which was decided based on "implausible" economic analyses
  • the rollback of the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS), which the EPA pushed after performing a flawed cost-benefit analysis, failing to consider the public health benefits and savings that would result from controlling mercury pollution
  • the EPA's push to exclude certain scientific studies from policy-making, saying the change "could easily undercut the integrity of environmental laws, as it will allow systematic bias to be introduced."

H. Christopher Frey, an environmental engineering professor at North Carolina State University who served on the board for six years, told the Post that EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler is "sidelining the Scientific Advisory Board."

"He obviously has an ideological agenda of pursuing regulatory rollbacks, and the science is not always going to be consistent with that ideological agenda," Frey said.

The EPA's marginalizing of the board as it rolls back regulations "looks like ideology trumping science," tweeted Kathleen Rest, executive director of the Union of Concerned Scientists.

The SAB's new reports about the EPA's rollbacks call into question "to what degree these suggested changes are fact-based as opposed to politically motivated," Steven Hamburg of the Environmental Defense Fund, who served on the board until last September, told the Post.


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