At least one environmental lawyer maintains that Scott Pruitt’s decision last week to bar scientists who get EPA grants from sitting on the agency’s science advisory boards is illegal.
It’s what E and E News is reporting about Michael Burger, director of Columbia University’s Sabin Center for Climate Change Law.
The agency has 22 of those federal advisory committees and Burger contends Pruitt’s decision violates the Administrative Procedure Act. He says it’s arbitrary and capricious.
E and E reported that Burger wrote in a blog post this week, “Given the inherent contradiction in excluding scientists who receive EPA funding but including scientists who receive funding from companies subject to EPA regulations, the rule is on its face both arbitrary and capricious.”
While Pruitt, the former Oklahoma Attorney General contends it has been a long-standing conflict of interest for scientists to get money from the EPA and still serve on its advisory Burger argues otherwise.
The Ethics in Government Act mandates that special government employees, including scientists serving on advisory committees, cannot participate in matters that have a “direct and predictable effect on their financial interests,” meaning there’s a close connection between the individual’s action and their financial gain. It isn’t enough to speculate that an action would lead to financial gain, and an action does not represent a conflict if its benefits extend to a large and diverse group.
Burger wrote, “It is an untenable stretch of logic to say that a scientist who receives grants from EPA to study air pollution has a financial interest in any individual air pollution standard.”