Top EPA Science Office Sidelined as Political Appointees Hatched Controversial Science Proposal

, Deputy director, Center for Science & Democracy | October 3, 2018, 4:55 pm EDT
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The EPA’s Office of the Science Advisor (OSA) was excluded from discussions around a proposal to restrict the types of science that could be used in agency decisions, according to an email obtained by UCS. Described by EPA as providing “leadership in cross-Agency science and science policy,” the OSA would normally be principally involved in such an effort. This is further evidence that the science rule was developed by political appointees while completely excluding top EPA scientific staff.

OSA Director Tom Sinks seemed taken aback when the rule was published.

“Even though OSA and I have not participated in the development of this document and I just obtained it (have yet to read it), I am listed as the point of contact,” he wrote in an email to colleagues. “No doubt we will all have a lots [sic] of questions re this – but I wanted you to be aware of this and encourage you to read about it.”

The email was obtained through the Freedom of Information Act and shared with the Washington Post, which broke the story earlier this afternoon.

It’s a lot easier for fringe scientific views to take root when the agency’s own scientific experts aren’t even allowed a seat at the table. Adding insult to injury, EPA leaders announced last week that the Office of Science Advisor would be eliminated and that some of its functions would be buried deep inside one EPA office, diminishing the role of science advice at the agency.

The email from Dr. Sinks shows the exclusion of the science advisor’s office from important policy discussions started long before EPA leaders decided to get rid of it.

Previously, the EPA attempted to justify its proposed rule by claiming that it was consistent with recommendations from several prominent scientific organizations, forcing those organizations to disassociate themselves from the rule.

“Contrary to the stated purpose of the rule, the rule would result in the exclusion of valid and important scientific findings,” said Rush Holt, president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, in testimony before the Senate today, according to the Washington Post.

Hundreds of scientific associations, industry groups, public interest organizations, scientists have expressed concern about the proposal in public comments. Even the Department of Defense told EPA that this idea is unwise.

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