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Pruitt tries to use the Bible to defend his purge of the EPA’s scientific advisory committees

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt recently suggested he would make serving on the agency’s independent scientific advisory committees more difficult for researchers who receive EPA grants. On Tuesday, he made it official, signing a directive that bans such grantees from the Board of Scientific Counselors, the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee, and the Science Advisory Board. Pruitt attempts to explain his reasoning by quoting the Old Testament's Book of Joshua: “Joshua says to the people of Israel, ‘choose this day whom you’re going to serve.’ And I would say to you this is sort of like the ‘Joshua Principle’—that as it relates to grants to this agency, you are going to have to choose either service on the committee to provide counsel to us in an independent fashion or you can choose grants. But you cannot do both.” Pruitt, however, does not give the same ultimatum to industry scientists. Politicians, scientists, and environmentalists alike are calling the directive “the height of hypocrisy.” Deborah Swackhamer, an environmental chemist who currently chairs the Board of Scientific Counselors and who Pruitt is replacing, told Science magazine, “The move to remove scientists with EPA funding is, simply put, scientific censorship. He is applying this directive in the name of ethics, when in fact he is only applying it to independent academic scientists and not to industry, who may in fact have a much greater conflict of interest.” The EPA is expected to announce the formal list of appointees to the committee next week.  

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