Changes Coming for EPA Scientific Advisory Groups

The new administration has taken multiple actions that will change the composition of the various scientific advisory groups that provide input on regulatory development and other actions being considered by EPA.  Of particular importance to drinking water is the Science Advisory Board (SAB) and its Drinking Water Committee, but these actions also apply advisory committees with other environmental issues.   Many of the actions have been attacked by environmental groups and other administration critics as a way to stack the committees with pro-industry members and further what critics see as an anti-environmental agenda.   Earlier in the year, the administration failed to renew the all expired terms of existing members of the advisory groups.  Normally, members who had served only one term would be renewed for a second term.  This left an unusually long list of vacancies that could be filled by the new administration.  A solicitation for candidates for the SAB and the Drinking Water Committee was made by EPA in June, and the news media has released what is expected to be the list of new members for the full SAB (attached).  One of the stated purposes of this overhaul of the committees is to increase participation by the regulated community and state and local governments.  This new SAB list does appear to include more representatives from these sectors.   We should hear about Drinking Water Committee members soon.
In a related move yesterday, Administrator Pruitt issued a directive aimed at increasing the independence of these advisory groups.  As a result, any member that receives a grant from EPA, as a principal investigator or co-investigator, must either give up the grant or give up their position on the advisory panel.  According to media reports, this applies to about 20 current members of EPA advisory groups, including the SAB.  Critics have charged that this will prevent many highly qualified academics from participating, and rather than reducing conflicts of interest, will actually increase the influence of those regulated by EPA.   The restriction on grant recipients becoming members of the advisory groups does not apply to states receiving EPA grants so it should not restrict any state participation in the SAB.
See the new SAB members – epa2017_2145