A lawsuit was filed Wednesday against the EPA, over an October directive from agency chief Scott Pruitt, barring EPA-funded scientists from sitting on the agency’s advisory boards. Professor Elizabeth “Lianne” Sheppard of the University of Washington School of Public Health, and a member of the agency’s Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee, along with the Union of Concerned Scientists, filed the suit calling the move “arbitrary” and describing it as “an attempt to delegitimize science,” according to Huffington Post.
It goes on to say the move is “is an attack on science itself, as it portrays legitimate, independent scientists ― who provide accurate, evidence-based information backed by verifiable, peer reviewed research in order to inform environmental policy ― as just another interest group seeking to advance an agenda.”
It also argues that the move violates the Federal Advisory Committee Act of 1972, which states that such committees must be “not be inappropriately influenced by the appointing authority or by any special interest.”
Sheppard released a statement Wednesday saying:
“I am committed to serving on federal advisory committees because I believe this is one of the most effective ways for me to use my scientific expertise to promote public health. This directive forces me to choose between my own work and my commitment to the public.”
Speaking to Huffington Post, Sheppard explained she had been unable to accept a 3 million-dollar EPA grant for her university, if she wanted to remain on the committee. That money would have funded a study into the ways that air pollution effects the cardiovascular system. Scientists such as Sheppard often have few sources to turn to for funding.
“I’ve been working on the study for over 10 years,” Sheppard said. “So, yeah, I would like to continue to work on that study ― absolutely. … The EPA already has good processes in place to review and manage conflicts of interest, and I don’t think this directive contributes to that.”
The suit was filed by the law firm Jenner & Block, and nonprofit group Protect Democracy, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts.
Scott Pruitt’s EPA has already earned a reputation for favoring the interests of industry over the environment and public health concerns, with many officials either quitting the agency or dismissed from advisory councils.
According to Protect Democracy attorney Jamila Benkato:
“Anti-democratic governments thrive on obfuscating truth and seeking to suppress scientists and other authoritative voices that offer accurate information. The EPA’s directive is one more example of the administration’s assault on facts.”