EPA Administrator Michael Regan announced on Wednesday the decision to remove members from two important panels, the Science Advisory Board and the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee, a move many career officials within the agency as well as outside environment groups had hoped for.
“Scientific integrity is one of EPA’s foundational values — and as Administrator, I am committed to ensuring that every decision we make meets rigorous scientific standards,” Regan said in a statement. “Resetting these two scientific advisory committees will ensure the agency receives the best possible scientific insight to support our work to protect human health and the environment. Today we return to a time-tested, fair, and transparent process for soliciting membership to these critically important advisory bodies.”
It is unusual for an incoming administration to completely remove all members of the panel. But one source familiar with the matter told CNN that the housecleaning was expected, noting that many of the outside experts picked by President Donald Trump held views that did not align with President Joe Biden’s ideas on climate.
The purge comes after the Biden administration launched a task force Monday to look at political interference in scientific decisions under Trump in order to ensure the federal government’s scientific policies are free from inappropriate political influence going forward.
The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy said in a letter Monday the task force would review federal government policies and make sure they “prevent improper political interference” from affecting research or data. The letter, first reported by The New York Times, also states the task force wants to prevent “the suppression or distortion of scientific or technological findings.”
According to the EPA, Regan’s decision to reset these federal advisory committees stressed the importance of the panels “to EPA’s mission of protecting human health and the environment, and seeks to reverse deficiencies caused by decisions made in recent years” — including a 2017 directive that the agency said “prevented qualified academics and non-government officials who received EPA research grants from concurrently serving on EPA advisory, as well as eliminating air pollution review panels and not following the standard process for appointing committee members.”
This is not the first time a Biden appointee has cleaned house. Earlier this year, newly installed Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin made a similar decision, dismissing hundreds of members of 42 Pentagon advisory boards, including controversial late appointments by the Trump administration of former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski and David Bossie, Trump’s deputy campaign manager.
Additionally, since Biden took office, the administration has requested resignations or removed several Trump appointees across various government agencies and boards.