The Trump administration's Environmental Protection Agency has sidestepped the agency's process for ensuring quality and balance in its advisory committees, and numerous appointees are serving without having undergone the required federal ethics review, the Government Accountability Office said Monday.
The new report from the government watchdog agency also said that the make-up of the EPA's 22 advisory committees has changed significantly since President Donald Trump took office, and now includes fewer academics and more industry scientists and consultants. The number of meetings the advisory boards held dropped 40 percent in the 15 months following Trump's inauguration compared to the 15 months preceding it.
The EPA's advisory boards serve an important role in development of agency policy. Since nearly all of the agency's regulatory decisions face legal challenges in court, the EPA typically has pointed to the advice it has sought from these outside experts to demonstrate that its actions are not arbitrary or capricious.
"This report shows that the Trump administration rigged influential advisory boards to favor its polluter backers," said Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), one of 10 Democratic senators who requested the GAO review in late 2017."In the process, they also slowed down the work of the committees, delaying key decisions on whether to regulate potentially dangerous environmental hazards."