President Donald Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency is promising to do a better job heeding the advice of its own scientific advisers — but only to a point.
EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler offered the assurance in an eight-page letter to the agency’s Science Advisory Board, after the panel complained the agency was ignoring its own research while unwinding Obama-era environmental rules throttling emissions from automobiles, power plants and oil wells.
The advisory board is a panel of nearly four dozen outside researchers and experts tasked with reviewing the technical information used by the EPA, giving advice on broad scientific matters and examining agency research programs.
Wheeler said he was directing EPA offices to share information with the expert advisers earlier and to be more transparent “on key regulatory science issues,” by holding “more rapid and frequent briefings.” Wheeler also said he would be asking the board for advice on how the EPA can better tell the public about health and environmental risks. The planned changes should provide “greater support to the vital role the SAB is expected to play in providing scientific advice to the agency,” Wheeler said in the April 19 letter released Monday.
Wheeler said the agency will turn to more specialized advisory committees for specific policy recommendations, after previously deciding to disband extra-specialized subcommittees of air quality experts in order to “streamline” their reviews.
Wheeler also signaled there were limits to his interest in the SAB’s counsel. EPA decisions “are informed by scientific considerations,” Wheeler said, but ultimately, “the EPA must take account of a wide range of considerations” to ensure its actions are “reasonable, defensible and consistent with our responsibilities to the American people.”