Back in 2017, the new EPA Director Scott Pruitt — a fantastically pampered shill for corporations whose income is proportional to the noxious effluvia they eject into our air, soil, and water — passed a policy barring scientists from participating on the EPA's Scientific Advisory Board if they had ever received a grant from the EPA.
This sneaky-clever move was clearly designed to create the illusion that it was "draining the swamp" by preventing any potential conflicts of interest between scientists and money. Except that most academic scientists rely on EPA (and other) grants. Which limited the pot of scientific advisors on the scientific advisory board to scientists who worked for corporations. Who … somehow … didn't have any conflicts of interest between their money and their science?
It was, as the NRDC put it, a "pernicious scheme to stack the deck in favor of big polluters by trying to shut out the voices of scientists—all to pump more pollution into our lives." They added:
Pruitt claimed that his 2017 directive reduced bias on the EPA's nearly two dozen advisory panels, which offer scientific expertise that then guide policy decisions on environmental pollutants, such as industrial chemicals or airborne particles from power plants. But unsurprisingly, Pruitt's rule was not extended to scientists and consultants with ties to chemical or fossil fuel companies, allowing the agency to soon fill some open seats with industry insiders who disputed the known harm of pollutants, like ozone and PFOA.
Fortunately, Judge Denise Cote of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York recognized it for exactly what it was. "Prior to the issuance of the Directive, the EPA's Peer Review Handbook stated specifically that there is 'no question' that a scientist who receives EPA research funding can, nonetheless, offer 'independent scientific advice' to the EPA," she wrote in her opinion, stating what is painfully obvious to anyone who is not blatantly corrupted by corporate money.
It's always comforting when the American legal system prevents the American legal system from legally screwing over Americans.
Judge tosses EPA policy that barred agency grantees from serving as science advisers [Pamela King / Science Mag]
Image: Laurie Shaull (CC 2.0)