May 8 (UPI) -- The Environmental Protection Agency dismissed at least five of its scientific advisers, opening seats the head of the agency may give to representatives of agencies regulated by the board.
The three-year terms of five people on the 18-member Board of Scientific Counselors were not renewed, they were informed Friday. The board is a key scientific bureau of the agency and advises on whether EPA research has sufficient scholarly rigor and integrity.
J.P. Friere, spokesman for EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, said consideration would be given to granting the vacant seats on the board to representatives from industries whose pollution is regulated by the agency. The action Friday comes six weeks after the House voted to change another EPA scientific review board to include corporate involvement.
Friere said the agency will "take as inclusive an approach to regulation as possible."
"We want to expand the pool of applicants to as broad a range as possible, to include universities that aren't typically represented and issues that aren't typically represented."
Trump has called on Pruitt to remake the EPA and has advocated deep budget cuts for its main scientific branch. He has instructed Pruitt, who has questioned the established science of human-caused climate change, to roll back Obama-era regulations on climate change and clean water protection. Since becoming EPA chief, Pruitt has pledged to restore the U.S. coal mining industry, although EPA scientific review boards have recommended limitations on coal pollution to combat climate change.
"This is completely part of a multifaceted effort to get science out of the way of a deregulation agenda," commented Ken Kimmell of the Union of Concerned Scientists. "What seems to be premature removals of members of this Board of Science Counselors when the board has come out in favor of the EPA strengthening its climate science, plus the severe cuts to research and development -- you have to see all these things as interconnected."