The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) scientific advisory board hasn’t met in at least six months, Scientific American reported this week.
The magazine said the full EPA board last met in August, and has not held conference calls or votes since then. One board member said that in the past, the group would have met or been in contact several times.
The EPA said that the group hasn’t met because of delayed paperwork, which stops the board from having enough members to reach a quorum.
However, one board member claimed that EPA head Scott Pruitt was slowing down the board until about a dozen members’ terms end in September.
“He’s running out the clock, because in the end of September, he gets another chunk of them off,” the member told Scientific American. “The obvious interpretation is that he’s making sure he doesn’t use the SAB until he has appointed the overwhelming majority of the people on the SAB.”
Peter Thorne, a professor at the University of Iowa College of Public Health and former chair of the board, said that the board would normally have at least one, two-day long meeting and a couple of teleconferences over the span of six months.
He added that EPA officials would also consult the board on the science behind new regulations.
“If there are reports or regulatory actions that are being scheduled or that are happening and they’re not coming to the science advisory board, then something is most definitely lost, because the board provides very important input to the process and scientific rigor,” Thorne told Scientific American.
Pruitt has taken steps to reshape the agency’s advisory boards, blocking scientists who have received past EPA grants from sitting on the boards. The EPA said the move was to eliminate conflicts of interest, but critics have said it allows industry advocates to work as EPA advisers.