EPA Dismisses Key Scientific Advisers

scott pruitt with coal miners
SYCAMORE, PA - APRIL 13: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt holds up a miner's helmet that he was given after speaking with coal miners at the Harvey Mine on April 13, 2017 in Sycamore, Pennsylvania. The Harvey Mine, owned by CNX Coal Resources, is part of the largest underground mining complex in the United States. (Image credit: Justin Merriman / Stringer)

The Environmental Protection Agency has dismissed several members of a key scientific advisory board.

All the dismissed members of the Board of Scientific Counselors, which had 18 members, were finishing up their three-year terms, although these terms are frequently renewed. The science advisory board plays a key role in assessing the quality of scientific research from the agency, and can help shape future research.

So far, at least five members have been dismissed, according to a report by The New York Times.

A spokesman for the EPA said that some of these advisers may be replaced with people from industries that are typically regulated by the EPA, assuming the appointments do not pose a conflict of interest.

"The administrator believes we should have people on this board who understand the impact of regulations on the regulated community," the EPA spokesman, J. P. Freire, told The New York Times.

Robert Richardson, an ecological economist and an associate professor at Michigan State University's Department of Community Sustainability, was among the scientists whose terms were not renewed.

"I've never heard of any circumstance where someone didn't serve two consecutive terms," Richardson told The Washington Post.

"The role that science has played in the agency in the past, this step is a significant step in a different direction," Richardson told Science. "Anecdotally, based on what we know about the administrator, I think it will be science that will appear to be friendlier to industry, the fossil fuel industry, the chemical industry, and I think it will be science that marginalizes climate change science."

This isn't the first time that a shake-up at the EPA has drawn controversy. The Trump administration also drew fire for taking down the agency's climate change pages.

Originally published on Live Science.

Tia Ghose
Managing Editor

Tia is the managing editor and was previously a senior writer for Live Science. Her work has appeared in Scientific American, Wired.com and other outlets. She holds a master's degree in bioengineering from the University of Washington, a graduate certificate in science writing from UC Santa Cruz and a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Texas at Austin. Tia was part of a team at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that published the Empty Cradles series on preterm births, which won multiple awards, including the 2012 Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism.