House Hearing Highlights New GAO Finding that Trump EPA Interfered in Selection of Science Advisors

July 16, 2019
Sharyn Stein, 202-572-3396,

(Washington D.C. – July 16, 2019) A Congressional hearing today will highlight a new report that found the Trump administration interfered with the appointment process for crucial independent science advisory committees, and that the interference has led to committees that lack necessary scientific expertise and may have conflicts of interest.

This afternoon’s hearing will be held jointly by the Investigations and Oversight Subcommittee and the Environment Subcommittee of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology. They’ll discuss the findings of the new Government Accountability Office (GAO) report.

“The GAO report demonstrates, once again, the Trump administration’s pattern of undermining rigorous science to advance an agenda that denies climate change, harms our environment, and endangers Americans’ lives and health,” said EDF senior attorney Martha Roberts. “The Trump administration should be relying on the most knowledgeable independent experts on health and environmental issues – not elevating climate deniers or those who question well-established links between pollution and public health. We applaud Congressional leaders’ efforts to investigate these troubling findings.”

The Federal Advisory Committee Act requires science advisory committees to be independent of undue political interference and constituted of experts with fairly balanced viewpoints and expertise. Federal conflict of interest laws also apply to these panels. Until now, EPA has typically followed a process led by career staff to ensure those laws are complied with and that appointments are not made based on political considerations.

In 2017, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, Senator Tom Carper, and eight other Senators called for the Government Accountability Office to investigate EPA’s appointments to science advisory committees after then-Administrator Scott Pruitt issued a directive arbitrarily barring scientists who had received EPA grants from serving.

The Government Accountability Office report released yesterday concludes that the Trump EPA failed to follow the accepted process. The administration replaced highly qualified scientists with individuals like Tony Cox – an industry-funded critic of EPA safeguards who has produced dubious research questioning well-established findings on the harmful impacts of pollution on human health.

The Trump administration selected Tony Cox to serve as head of EPA’s Clean Air Science Advisory Committee (CASAC). Cox and other improperly selected Trump EPA appointees are now overseeing the agency’s review of the science underpinning national air quality standards that protect all communities from harmful air pollution.

Documents that Senator Whitehouse and others had already obtained revealed that EPA political appointees ignored career staff’s concerns regarding CASAC nominees. In particular, staff had flagged that Tony Cox lacked key scientific credentials and had indications of a financial conflict of interest.

Other records obtained by EDF through the Freedom of Information Act reveal that EPA political official Clint Woods coordinated with Tony Cox before Pruitt released a memorandum about revamping the process for developing our health-based national ambient air quality standards, and undermining established, peer-reviewed science in the new process.

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