Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt on Friday announced new appointments to three key advisory boards and made it clear he favors state regulators and energy industry representatives over environmentalists.
The appointments to the Science Advisory Board, Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee, and Board of Scientific Counselors were announced after Pruitt this week unveiled a new directive to block scientists who receive EPA funding from serving on the advisory boards.
Pruitt, in announcing the directive barring EPA grant recipients, said more than 430 people applied to the Board of Scientific Counselors and over 130 applied for the Scientific Advisory Board. Forty-two people have applied for seven positions with the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee.
Critics say that means the EPA will fill the boards with corporate interests who support Pruitt’s deregulatory agenda.
But Pruitt said the current crop of applicants represents a broader geographic area than in previous boards. He said his goal is to provide more “fulsome” representation on the boards.
“To ensure that EPA is receiving the best independent scientific advice, I am appointing highly qualified experts and scientists to these important committees,” Pruitt said Friday.
Michael Honeycutt, who heads the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality’s toxicology division, will lead the Scientific Advisory Board. Honeycutt has questioned the health risks associated with smog.
Tony Cox, an independent consultant in quantitative risk analysis, will lead the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee. And Paul Gilman, chief sustainability officer at Covanta Energy and a former EPA official under President George W. Bush, will head the Board of Scientific Advisers.
Pruitt appointed two others to the seven-member Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee: James Boylan of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources and Larry Wolk from the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment.
He chose 18 new members for the Scientific Advisory Board, with representatives from the utility industry, chemical industry, refining industry and state governments. These include Larry Monroe of Southern Company, Kimberly White of the American Chemistry Council, Merlin Lindstrom of Phillips 66, and Bob Blanz of the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality.
Monroe, as chief environmental officer at Southern Company, argued the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan was “unworkable and would increase electricity prices to customers while hurting reliability.”
Arkansas was one of 26 states that sued the Obama administration over the Clean Power Plan, which aimed to regulate emissions from coal-fired power plants.
Another appointee, Anne Smith, the managing director of NERA Economic Consulting, has worked for groups that opposed the Obama administration’s regulatory agenda.
Pruitt’s appointments to the Board of Scientific Counselors contain more balance between industry and science. There are multiple representatives from the federal national labs, including Charlette Geffen and Katrina Waters of the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.
Among the other choices are Jennifer McPartland, a senior scientist of the Environmental Defense Fund; Kari Cutting of the North Dakota Petroleum Council; Tim Wallington of Ford and Bart Croes of the California Air Resources Board.
California is in talks with the Trump administration over its strict vehicle emissions standards. President Trump earlier this year launched a review of the Obama administration’s greenhouse gas rules for the auto industry.