GOP lawmakers slam EPA chief over firing of science advisers

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FILE - In this Feb. 3, 2021, file photo, Environmental Protection Agency administrator Michael Regan, speaks during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Environment and Public Works committee on Capitol Hill in Washington. Reganis taking steps to restore what he calls scientific integrity at the EPA. And one way Regan is trying to do that is by reversing Trump administration actions that sidelined many academic scientists as advisers in favor of industry figures.(Caroline Brehman/Pool via AP)

WASHINGTON – Two House Republicans are demanding that the Environmental Protection Agency provide records related to a decision by the agency's new leader to remove dozens of scientists and other experts from two key advisory boards.

EPA Administrator Michael Regan has said the advisers appointed under the Trump administration were overly friendly to business and that his March 31 “reset” of the Science Advisory Board and Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee would return EPA to its practice of relying on advice from a balanced group of experts.

Regan’s overhaul removed more than 45 members of the two science advisory boards, including some whose terms do not expire this year. The panels provide scientific expertise and recommendations for air quality standards and other policies intended to protect public health and the environment.

But GOP Reps. James Comer of Kentucky and Ralph Norman of South Carolina criticized Regan for what they called an unwarranted “purge” based more on politics than science. Comer is the senior Republican on the House Oversight Committee, while Norman is the top Republican on the panel’s environment subcommittee.

“Traditionally science advisory boards are bipartisan panels used to provide advice to the administrator. Unfortunately, it appears the Biden administration is continuing to purge officials in the government who do not share its political beliefs,'' Comer and Norman wrote Wednesday in a letter to Regan.

“The midterm firing of science advisory board members within the first months of a new administration .... raises serious concerns about the politicization of the EPA,” they added.

Regan told The Associated Press in an interview late last month that while he was clearing out the two important panels, ousted members can apply for reinstatement.

“Scientific integrity is a foundational value for EPA,″ Regan said. “And I am committing to ensuring that every single decision we make meets rigorous scientific standards.’’