WASHINGTON –The Environmental Protection Agency must stop categorically barring its grant recipients from serving on the agency’s scientific advisory committees, a federal judge in New York ruled today in the latest litigation win by the Natural Resources Defense Council.
The ruling, by Judge Denise Cote of the U.S. District Court in New York, rejected EPA’s plea that the directive, issued by then-EPA administrator Scott Pruitt, be allowed to remain in effect while the agency searches for a rationale for the policy.
The following is a statement by Vivian Wang, an attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).
“This is an important victory for science and health. It underscores the crucial role of science in protecting our environment and public health—at a time we need science at the forefront to guide us through a dangerous pandemic. And it’s a repudiation of EPA’s effort to stifle the voices of independent scientists.
“Vacating this provision of the directive makes its further use unlawful. EPA should return to relying on science to protect people from dirty air, unsafe water and toxic chemicals, and do it now.”
NRDC has filed 107 lawsuits against Trump administration rollbacks and efforts to undermine environmental safeguards. With today’s victory, 66 cases have been resolved and NRDC has prevailed in 61 of them
NRDC sued EPA last year challenging an October 31, 2017 directive from former administrator Scott Pruitt, which led to the agency removing many of the nation’s top scientists from its roughly 23 advisory committees.
The directive was aimed at weakening the role of science in protecting the public from harmful chemicals and pollution. It disqualified scientists who receive research grants from the EPA, mainly scientists from universities and other not-for-profit institutions, on the pretext that these scientists may be biased. The court invalidated the directive, finding that EPA “failed to articulate any reason” or provide any evidentiary basis for its decision.
EPA’s claims also were hypocritical, as the agency allowed scientists, consultants and others who work for or receive funding from the chemical and fossil fuel industries to serve on these advisory boards.
The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 3 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world's natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Bozeman, MT, and Beijing. Visit us at NRDC.org and follow us on Twitter @NRDC.