EPA advisory panel gutted of scientists, to be replaced by people from regulated industries

This is the kind of stuff the Science March was designed to prevent. As yesterday’s New York Times reported, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, whose name encapsulates its mission, has just dismissed five or more members of its scientific review board, the Board of Science Counselors (BSC). The BSC’s job is to review and vet the science produced by the EPA, which is used in its mission to regulate industries and protect the environment.

The Board was in bad odor after having recommended more work on climate change, and their punishment was to ditch the scientists off the Board—after those scientists had already been told they wouldn’t be let go under the new administration.

So who’s going to guard the environmental henhouse? Why, members of the regulated industries, of course! Read and weep:

A spokesman for the E.P.A. administrator, Scott Pruitt, said he would consider replacing the academic scientists with representatives from industries whose pollution the agency is supposed to regulate, as part of the wide net it plans to cast. “The administrator believes we should have people on this board who understand the impact of regulations on the regulated community,” said the spokesman, J. P. Freire.

The dismissals on Friday came about six weeks after the House passed a bill aimed at changing the composition of another E.P.A. scientific review board to include more representation from the corporate world.

President Trump has directed Mr. Pruitt to radically remake the E.P.A., pushing for deep cuts in its budget — including a 40 percent reduction for its main scientific branch — and instructing him to roll back major Obama-era regulations on climate change and clean water protection. In recent weeks, the agency has removed some scientific data on climate change from its websites, and Mr. Pruitt has publicly questioned the established science of human-caused climate change.

In his first outings as E.P.A. administrator, Mr. Pruitt has made a point of visiting coal mines and pledging that his agency will seek to restore that industry, even though many members of both of the E.P.A.’s scientific advisory boards have historically recommended stringent constraints on coal pollution to combat climate change.

Mr. Freire said the agency wanted “to take as inclusive an approach to regulation as possible.”

“We want to expand the pool of applicants” for the scientific board, he said, “to as broad a range as possible, to include universities that aren’t typically represented and issues that aren’t typically represented.”

Everybody knows what’s going on here: the Republicans don’t give a rat’s patootie about the environment, and if those pesky scientists get in the way, well, fire ’em! Let the coal industry determine pollution standards and the industrialists prosper. (And we can also ditch the Paris climate accords.)

You can march for science until your toes wear off, but the real way to stop this is to quit electing Republicans.

42 Comments

  1. Randy schenck
    Posted May 9, 2017 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

    So here is my suggestion considering what has happened at EPA. The Democrats in Congress should raise hell about this and if they can do nothing else, defund the department. Why pay for a bogus and useless department of government? They should grow some and take the money away from Pruitt so he has no reason to exist. Why would we want to pay money for a joke.

    • Posted May 10, 2017 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

      The “defund” is exactly what some Republicans want. Remember also “drown it in a bathtub” (Norquist?)

  2. Posted May 9, 2017 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

    It’s almost as if Republicans don’t actually live in the environment….

    b&

    • darrelle
      Posted May 9, 2017 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

      They don’t. At least, not the same one we do. They create their own reality, remember?

  3. YF
    Posted May 9, 2017 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

    GOP: Greedy Old Pr*cks

  4. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted May 9, 2017 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

    The thing is, the quotes from sound reasonable :

    The EPA, meanwhile, stood by their decision. “No one has been fired or terminated,” said EPA spokesman J.P. Freire. “We’re not going to rubber-stamp the last administration’s appointees. Instead, they should participate in the same open competitive process as the rest of the applicant pool.”

    Source:https://www.theatlantic.com/news/archive/2017/05/epa-dismisses-half-the-scientists-on-its-review-board/525909/

    … this is how such politicians work. It SOUNDS like they’re A. doing better than Obama’s admin because Obama just kept unknown lazy people on like in a lost dusty government building somewhere, and B. the new appointments will be vigorously vetted, competitively, producing the best people for the job for the up-to-date scenario.

    Who’s to say?! I’d like to say I see right through it…

    • ThyroidPlanet
      Posted May 9, 2017 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

      Trying to say some more:

      Some people buy the quote above. What I’m saying is I might too, if there weren’t the other news items coming through.

      Another theme of Trump and his administration : this is what you’d expect to hear if someone has zero idea what they are talking about.

      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted May 11, 2017 at 3:45 pm | Permalink

        Another theme of Trump and his administration : this is what you’d expect to hear if someone has zero idea what they are talking about.

        In the mental world of Trump, that is a feature, not a bug.

    • eric
      Posted May 9, 2017 at 4:07 pm | Permalink

      That’s a nice bit of doublespeak there: appointees who must go through an open competition.

      Hey Trump administration – if this is such a good idea, why didn’t you use an open competitive process to decide who was going to lead DOE? Or HUD? Or any one of a number of other appointments?

  5. Ken Kukec
    Posted May 9, 2017 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

    Trump’s EPA chief, Scott Pruitt, is a jockstrap for the oil industry. Of Trump’s original cabinet-level picks, there were four that had to be beaten. One, Andrew Puzder at Labor, didn’t survive the confirmation process. Another, original NSA Mike Flynn, was forced to resign. The other two — Pruitt, and Tom Price at Health and Human Services — have still gotta go.

    There are others who are bad, but those four are/were absolute poison.

    • Historian
      Posted May 9, 2017 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

      Betsy DeVos at the Department of Education is another.

      • Posted May 9, 2017 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

        Indeed.

        – Never attended a public school.
        – Kids never attended a public school.
        – Has spent her adulthood trying to undermine public schools.

  6. Mark R.
    Posted May 9, 2017 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

    It’s truly amazing how short sighted these fools are. Trump and his cabinet members are prominent and successful businessmen, yet they can’t see the gold mine that is renewable energy- jobs, innovation and prosperity that has the side effect of saving (or trying to save) the environment. The rest of the world understands this and will be years ahead of us when and if we ever get our shit together and realize fossil fuels are not the future. What a fucking disaster.

    • nicky
      Posted May 9, 2017 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

      Good point. At present the only visionary industrialist in the USA appears to be Elon Musk (I stand, and hope, to be corrected there).
      I think the gutting of the EPA is the worst the Trump admin is doing by far, or even can do (short of a nuclear war). Let us hope you will only be four years behind.

    • eric
      Posted May 9, 2017 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

      Oh they see the gold mine. The problem is, they’re all silver investors (so to speak).

      • Posted May 9, 2017 at 4:39 pm | Permalink

        To be generous…no small part of the problem is that Faust’s piper is warming up his fiddle.

        You see, far and away the most valuable sector on the global market is the “energy” industry, with “energy” an euphemism for, “fossil fuels.”

        And the stocks of those “energy” companies are almost entirely representative of their mining rights to various petroleum deposits.

        The market price essentially assumes that the companies will, in due time, extract all those reserves. And that the profit — the cost :: sales ratio — of selling those reserves will be roughly in line with current profits.

        The reality of the situation couldn’t be further from the truth.

        For obvious reasons, oil companies first dig up easy-to-get-to high-quality deposits. Which, for equally obvious reasons, means that what’s left is hard to get to and low quality — so it costs more and sells for less.

        Or, in the case of something like oil that we literally can’t live without — you can’t feed several billion people without petroleum-based fertilizers and petroleum-powered farm equipment — the price skyrockets as inelastic demand meets increased production costs and diminishing output.

        As a society, the good news is that it’s technologically possible to create hydrocarbon feedstocks from atmospheric CO2 using solar-generated electricity. The bad news is that it’s very expensive to do so, only becoming competitive with mined petroleum at costs in the $200 / bbl range. The good news is that hydrocarbon products aren’t going to get significantly more expensive than that, because it’ll be more profitable to go the solar route — though it’ll take some time to make the transition. The bad news is that, when that happens, the “energy” industry stocks collapse in a bubble that makes the housing / subprime mortgage crisis look like a picnic. And the really bad news is that, in such a chaotic financial environment, nobody will be able to afford the new investment in solar panels at the scale and pace necessary to make up for diminishing oil well output. But the good news is that we can do it, at least in theory — solar panels are literally as cheap as sand, and we need less surface area than is already being used by rooftops.

        None of this is rocket science, none of it is controversial, none of it is secret.

        And the antics of the “energy” industry and its wholly-bought-and-paid for agents like Drumpf “Bring back coal!” Tinyhands “Putin / Rosneft’s bitch” Smallinpants make perfect sense in that light.

        (Of course, Der Drumpfenfurher is far too dim to realize that he’s being used like this. He’s too idiotic to realize that health care is complicated, and so slow that he still thinks tax reform is easier than health care. Nothing he does is conscious or intentional, merely reactionary — the perfect puppet. And super bonus points for all the distractions he creates!)

        Cheers,

        b&

        >

        • gravelinspector-Aidan
          Posted May 11, 2017 at 4:33 pm | Permalink

          I don’t disagree with the general thrust of your post, but it needs some honing before it goes to the printers.

          means that what’s left is hard to get to and low quality

          Not necessarily low quality – just distant and/ or harder to get to. I was on the phone to a colleague starting the process of getting an exploration permit in [African country, redacted] just a couple of days ago.

          you can’t feed several billion people without petroleum-based fertilizers

          Far and away the largest tonnages of fertilizers are “NPK” sources. That’s nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus. Negligible nitrogen in oil ; ditto potassium ; ditto phosphorus. The input from oil is in the energy to drive the Haber-Bosch process (400C and 200 bars, IIRC) for fixing atmospheric nitrogen to ammonia, then to convert some of that ammonia to nitrates. And the energy to mine and transport the potassium and phosphorus minerals from sources to users. (Incidentally, there’s a moderate amount of concern in the rock-sniffing brigades over diminishing reserves of phosphorus-rich rocks. There’s a good chance that a number of WEIT readers will see the end of the P in NPK fertilisers. That’s not nice thought.)

          and petroleum-powered farm equipment

          Of course. Also, the long-chain molecules necessary for a lot of lubricants are a damned sight harder to synthesise than the relatively short chains in diesel and petrol. I’m sure bioscience could cook up, figuratively, something(s) in due course, but I’ve not heard of any serious research into replacements.

          The bad news is that it’s very expensive to do so, only becoming competitive with mined petroleum at costs in the $200 / bbl range.

          That’s about right.
          Even at $200/bbl, we’re probably going to be using mined hydrocarbons – but for plastics and feedstocks to the chemical industry, not for burning. As my Dad’s chemistry textbooks used to say in the 1950s, “oil is too good to burn”.

          And the really bad news is that, in such a chaotic financial environment, nobody will be able to afford the new investment in solar panels at the scale and pace necessary to make up for diminishing oil well output.

          Of course, countries that have decarbonised their economies (not, obviously, America. Nor Russia, the world’s largest oil producer, for that matter) and already made the investments won’t be the ones struggling to buy such things.

          solar panels are literally as cheap as sand, and we need less surface area than is already being used by rooftops.

          Even if the material were, literally, as cheap as sand, there would still be significant costs in installation and maintenance. That bit of future might be bright but it’s not that bright.

          None of this is rocket science, none of it is controversial, none of it is secret.

          Yet. I’m sure Trump has plans to try to stop people knowing this.

          And super bonus points for all the distractions he creates!

          From the Zaphod Beeblebrox School of Politics. How many Trumps could either Koch brother buy with their small change?

          • Posted May 15, 2017 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

            Thanks for the clarifications. Much I didn’t know about, especially including that there was a potential shortage of phosphorus looming. Makes me wonder how soon farmers will seek to sequester their own irrigation runoff — not just to prevent algae blooms and the like downriver, but also to recover the elemental nutrients.

            One small disagreement, though:

            Even if the material were, literally, as cheap as sand, there would still be significant costs in installation and maintenance.

            Maintenance of PV is as close to zero as it gets. Residential rooftop solar needs as much maintenance as the grid tie at the meter and the wiring in the walls.

            And installation costs are now on a par with any other form of construction / remodeling. If you’re putting on a new roof, the cost to install solar panels is only fractionally greater than the cost to install only tile or tar shingles.

            Plus, equipment has long since been the least-expensive part of the price, being eclipsed by labor some time ago.

            So, there’s a cost, yes…but the cost is marginal compare to other expenses that you’ve got to have anyway. Whether or not it makes sense for an out-of-the-blue retrofit depends on the cost of electricity and the site’s amount of insolation and your cash reserves available for a capital investment. But especially for any form of new construction, and almost always for any sort of renovation, the payoff is almost instantaneous.

            Indeed…for new home construction, off-grid solar with battery storage is cheaper than what the utilities charge for a grid connection….

            And, with costs this low at homeowner scales, you can bet it makes even more sense at utility scales.

            There’s a reason Germany (Germany!) is going gangbusters with solar, and it has everything to do with their famous cold-hearted business acumen and not all that much with Hippie-style “save the whales” vibes.

            Cheers,

            b&

            >

  7. Posted May 9, 2017 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

    Yeah, let’s let industry self-regulate. That’s worked out so well. Of course those execs. will put the public interest ahead of their bonuses.

  8. Posted May 9, 2017 at 1:12 pm | Permalink

    As I said during the campaign: Where are these magic levers der Drumpfenführer has to pull to lower unemployment (already at historical lows, levels most economists consider to be “full” employment) and make all these “great” jobs?

    He’s proposing exactly what’s been done since 1981 — and it has not had anything like those effects. (The effect has been that everyone except the top 5% has gotten screwed.)

    Oh yeah, he’s going to let the local industry pollute your air and water. That will “Make America Great Again”™.

    • Randall Schenck
      Posted May 9, 2017 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

      No, no, he said we’ll make America sick again.

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted May 9, 2017 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

      Meanwhile in northern Europe, which is staunchly secular, is embracing renewable energy, and universal health care is the norm, incomes are increasing.

  9. Posted May 9, 2017 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

    I find it weird that the current administration has been active in and repeatedly stated they will bring the coal industry back. Meanwhile the coal industry leaders say it is not coming back and that the jobs lost will not be restored. The leaders of the coal industry, the owners of the mines, say it is in fact dying. They just want to make as much money as they can on their investments before it goes bust completely. Hugs

    • Posted May 9, 2017 at 3:05 pm | Permalink

      I think a good point. But the message plays well to the bottom of the republican base.

      • rickflick
        Posted May 9, 2017 at 7:23 pm | Permalink

        ‘Plays well’ is Drumphs main strategy.

  10. Malm Rivers
    Posted May 9, 2017 at 4:56 pm | Permalink

    And the way to stop electing Republicans is to stop supporting neoliberal Democrats, and particularly neoliberal Democrats named Clinton.

    Casting a primary vote for Clinton was a vote for Trump.

    • darwindad
      Posted May 9, 2017 at 7:13 pm | Permalink

      Malm Rivers, “casting a vote for Clinton was a vote for Trump”? What? Would Clinton have appointed Pruitt or DeVos or Jeff Sessions or anyone like them? Come on. Logic train is in. Jump on board.

    • darrelle
      Posted May 10, 2017 at 10:16 am | Permalink

      This seems to be the same attitude, “look what you made me do,” typical of hostage taking criminals and bullies that threaten in order to get what they want.

  11. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted May 9, 2017 at 7:13 pm | Permalink

    I’ve been thinking over and over again what someone here said the other day, about the human tendency to Science-and-technology their way out of anything. Sometimes it works, but it can be used as an excuse. Oddly, in the case of CO2, we’ve scienced-and-technologied ourselves INTO the problem, since the beginning of the industrial revolution.

    • rickflick
      Posted May 9, 2017 at 7:28 pm | Permalink

      It’s clearly true that the solution to CO2 is technological. What else could it be? Applying the correct solution is a political issue.

      • somer
        Posted May 9, 2017 at 8:30 pm | Permalink

        +1 unless you’re suggesting we go back to a pre electricty age with …. coal? or …. woodburning

  12. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted May 9, 2017 at 7:45 pm | Permalink

    Not directly related but I looked up the volume of Earth’s atmosphere and got this:

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atmosphere_of_Earth

    Gives %’s of gases in a nifty pie chart.

    • ThyroidPlanet
      Posted May 9, 2017 at 7:49 pm | Permalink

      … and Venus is 96.5% CO2

      https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atmosphere_of_Venus

      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted May 11, 2017 at 5:08 pm | Permalink

        What surprises me (from my “Astronomy notes” jotter) is the comparative atmosphere masses : 4.80E+20kg for Venus versus 5.148E+18kg for Earth. A factor of nearly 100 difference, which is remarkable for two adjacent planets of very similar masses. Even more remarkable considering that both planets had at least one “Giant Impact” (obligatory Don Davis artwork) in their histories.

  13. Jonathan Wallace
    Posted May 9, 2017 at 8:11 pm | Permalink

    I suppose that on the logic of the EPA’s new recruitment policy, the new vacancy at the head of the FBI will need to be filled by a Mafia boss?

  14. somer
    Posted May 9, 2017 at 8:19 pm | Permalink

    We have this whilst some of the science march organisers were busy criticising aspects of science ! Whilst the SJWs play the cretins are dismantling the EPA.

  15. Hempenstein
    Posted May 9, 2017 at 11:27 pm | Permalink

    …to include universities that aren’t typically represented

    Read that to mean Bob Jones & Liberty U’s, et ux.

  16. Dale Franzwa
    Posted May 10, 2017 at 12:06 am | Permalink

    Is that Fox News (home of fake news) guarding the hen house?

  17. Tom
    Posted May 10, 2017 at 12:56 am | Permalink

    Don’t despair the facts will not change and when they have to recommend building a sea wall to keep Manhattan from flooding (the Bankers will not be amused)they can’t blame the sciencists they have so ludicrously ignored.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted May 11, 2017 at 5:12 pm | Permalink

      they can’t blame the sciencists they have so ludicrously ignored.

      Do you think that will slow them down?

  18. Posted May 10, 2017 at 7:06 am | Permalink

    Well, damn….who didn’t see this coming?

    I’d like to personally congratulate all the bb’s and other pb’s that voted third party because Hillary and Trump were “both the same”.

  19. Posted May 10, 2017 at 12:32 pm | Permalink

    I fear this just signaled the end of the species.


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