Trump Administration Purges EPA Science Advisory Board | WYPR

Trump Administration Purges EPA Science Advisory Board

Nov 22, 2017

Kathleen Harnett White, President Trump's top environmental advisor.
Credit Huffington Post

Last month, the Trump Administration banned from the Environmental Protection Agency’s Science Advisory Board any and all scientists who receive EPA grants.

Instead, the administration invited onto the board – which is supposed to be an impartial panel of distinguished researchers -- a vice president of the Phillips 66 oil company, Merlin Lindstrom; and an manager for a coal-fired power utility, Larry Monroe of the Southern Company.

Also picked for the EPA Science Advisory Board was a California professor, Robert Phelan, who takes the minority position that clean air is not good for children, because their lungs need irritants to learn how to ward off pollution.

John Walke, director of clean air programs at the Natural Resources Defense Council, sees a pattern.

“The Trump Administration’s views on climate change and other dangerous pollution are well outside of main stream science,” Walke said. “So the Trump Administration is purging those expert mainstream scientists and replacing them with outliers and deniers of basic science concerning climate change, smog and soot.”

In a Senate confirmation hearing Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland questioned President Trump’s nominee to be chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, Kathleen Harnett White.

She is a director of a conservative think tank called the Texas Public Policy Foundation that is funded in part by Koch Industries. Koch Industries owns refineries, chemical companies, and fertilizer factories and has a direct financial interest in avoiding climate regulations.

Here’s Senator Cardin: “It seems to me that you don’t believe climate change is real?” 

White: “I... I am...I am uncertain.” 

Cardin: “You’re uncertain?” 

White: “No, I’m not. I’m sorry.  I jumped ahead of myself. Climate change is of course real.”

Cardin: “Does human activity affect climate change?”

White: “More than likely. But the extent to which, I think is very uncertain. Any my...”

Cardin: “Would you rely on scientists to give you that answer, or not?”

White: “No, I’ve had that question for a very long time.”

Cardin: “So you have a distinguished background in academics, in humanities and religion.”

White: “Yes.” Cardin: “Which is fine – a wonderful field.  You are not a scientist, are you?”

White: “No, I’m not a scientist.”

White is not the only top Trump science advisor who is squishy on science – but strong on eliminating regulations that might cut into the profits of business.

The administration’s choice as the new chairman of the EPA Science Advisory Board is Michael Honeycutt, an environmental regulator from Texas.

Adrian Shelley is director of the Texas office of Public Citizen.

“While Michael Honeycutt was chief toxicologist at the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, he undertook a systematic undermining of air pollution standards,” Shelley said.

Also among the new officials at EPA is Nancy B. Beck, a former executive at the American Chemistry Council who is now helping to lead EPA’s chemical regulation division.

Gretchen Goldman is a director at the Union of Concerned Scientists.

“We really have the fox guarding the henhouse at this point, and I think people like Nancy Beck, who you mention, are some of the more dangerous candidates that maybe aren’t getting as many of the headlines under this administration but these are people that can do a whole lot of damage from inside a federal agency,” Goldman.

From inside EPA, Beck is now rewriting and watering down regulations for the control of an industrial chemical pollutant called perfloroocttanoicacid (PFOA), which has been linked to kidney cancer, birth defects, and immune system disorders. 

EPA itself has been contaminated.