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EPA Head Purges Advisory Boards That Included Trump Appointees

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Michael Regan, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, on Wednesday fired dozens of independent scientific advisers, many of whom were installed under the Trump administration, in an effort to rebuild what he described as a “balanced group of experts” to inform clean air and water policy.

The scientists and experts sat on independent boards which play a critical role at the E.P.A., advising the agency on everything from air quality standards to pesticide use.

In a statement, Mr. Regan said “resetting” the Science Advisory Board and the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee “will ensure the agency receives the best possible scientific insight to support our work to protect human health and the environment.”

Mr. Regan added that he intends to “reconstitute, restore and create new committees to better address E.P.A. priorities.”

But the decision was criticized by the American Chemistry Council as “irregular,” and some former board members said the move was every bit as political as decisions made under the Trump administration.

John Graham, who was appointed during the Trump administration to lead the Science Advisory Board, said the move showed the “progression of Washington D.C. into the notion that everybody gets to pick their own scientists,” and called it “very sad.”

“Now for the first time in the agency’s 50-year history, we have an administrator interested in scientific advice only from those scientists he has personally appointed,” said Dr. Graham, who does not intend to seek reinstatement to the board.

Supporters of the ousting noted that President Donald J. Trump’s administrators transformed the advisory boards in ways that courts ultimately found to be illegal, and prevented many independent scientists from serving, instead packing the boards with industry-funded specialists.

Chris Zarba, who previously served as director of the E.P.A.’s Science Advisory Board, called Mr. Regan’s purge necessary.

“It has not ever been done before,” Mr. Zarba said. But, he argued, the advisory boards “have never been in this situation before, so I think it’s absolutely the right thing to do. I don’t see any other alternative.”

Mr. Trump’s first E.P.A. administrator, Scott Pruitt, barred anyone who had received grants from the agency from serving on its boards, leading to the firing of several academic researchers and shutting out others from applying. A court later ruled the policy was illegal, but the agency did not restore those scientists.

In recent weeks, the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security have also cleared out advisory boards that had been filled with Mr. Trump’s appointees.

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