The Trump administration is stacking the EPA's Science Advisory Board with anti-science conspiracy theorists and industry insiders.
The mission of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is to protect human health and the environment by acting as a watchdog over industry and big business.
Under Trump's watch, however, the EPA has turned into a cesspool of industry insiders and lobbyists who have hijacked the agency by replacing science with politics and prioritizing corporate interests above all else.
And now, things are getting even swampier at the EPA, thanks to new leadership.
Andrew Wheeler, the former coal lobbyist who was appointed by Trump to be the agency's acting director, is in the process of picking new members for the EPA's Science Advisory Board, which is supposed to serve as a team of external experts to advise the agency on scientific matters like evidence-based policies and regulations.
Thus far, the new members include a political insider from a Koch-funded conservative think tank, several industry-funded researchers, and — most recently — an outspoken climate change denier who believes that burning fossil fuels is actually good for the earth.
Last week, when his advisory position was announced, John Christy, told E&E News, which covers energy and the environment, that "there's a benefit, not a cost, to producing energy from carbon."
He has previously expressed similar sentiments, saying, "Carbon dioxide makes things grow. Plants love this stuff. It creates more food. There is absolutely no question that carbon energy provides ... longer and better lives."
Christy, an atmospheric science professor at the University of Alabama in Hunstville, also thinks that regulations on greenhouse gases should be undone because he doesn't believe human activity is related to global warming — which he's not even entirely confident is real.
When asked about the overwhelming scientific consensus that refutes his claims, Christy has attributed it in part to censorship, making the baseless assertion that scientists are too afraid to speak up and come forward with evidence contradicting mainstream climate science.
At one point in the past, Christy even put forth research asserting that the earth was actually cooling, not warming. Those findings were swiftly debunked, and Christy later admitted that his conclusions were erroneous.
Still, he continues to argue that the earth isn't warming at the rate that scientific agencies say it is, and his research continues to be refuted by mainstream scientists. He counters the scientific consensus by saying that whatever happens to the environment is God's will.
Upon being named to the advisory board, Christy told E&E news that he will use his position to "question the results of climate models."
According to Christy, he got his seat on the board after being asked to apply by EPA officials.
He will join other new members chosen by Wheeler, including Richard Williams, who has downplayed the link between formaldehyde exposure and cancer during his time as a member of the American Chemistry Council's formaldehyde panel, and Brant Ulsh, who has criticized how much effort is spent trying to minimize radiation exposure at nuclear power plants.
Barbara Beck, another new pick for the board, once wrote that researchers should be more careful in making the determination that that low levels of lead exposure are harmful to children. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there is "no safe blood lead level in children."
The Union of Concerned Scientists slammed Wheeler's decision to pack the scientific advisory board with industry insiders and anti-science skeptics.
"Scientists on the SAB should be providing an independent check on the work of the EPA, not using their positions to push fringe scientific views or further a specific policy agenda at the agency," the organization declared in a statement Friday.
"It's a shame that the independence and quality of the SAB is being so badly decimated at a time when oversight at the EPA is sorely needed to ensure that science is being used to inform policies that should be protecting Americans and our environment," the group added, noting that this is "part of a general trend of the Trump administration's relentless attacks on science and sidelining of science advice."
Meanwhile, as Wheeler was busy stacking the science advisory board with politically motivated insiders, he still found time last week to sign off on a plan that would allow toxic chemicals to go unregulated in our nation's drinking water supply.
Among the results of the administration's anti-science agenda is a mass exodus of scientists and researchers, with nearly 1,600 EPA employees leaving during the first 18 months of Trump’s presidency. At the same time, fewer than 400 new employees were hired, and many of them were pro-industry political appointees, not scientists.
In the words of former surgeon general Richard Carmona, the Trump administration's war on science is as "egregious as I've ever seen it, starting from the very top with the president just denying the existence of science, manipulating the system on behalf of special interests."
And now, those special interests have their very own representatives to manipulate the system from the inside out.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.