Science Wins Again: Court Rejects EPA Barring Independent Scientists from Panels

WASHINGTON  –The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit today ruled that the Environmental Protection Agency’s policy barring independent scientists from its advisory boards clashed with federal law and ethics regulations. The case was brought by Physicians for Social Responsibility and other groups against a policy in effect since it was issued in 2017 by then-Administrator Scott Pruitt.

The following is a statement by Tom Zimpleman, an attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC):

“This is another terrific victory for science. It’s a rejection of EPA’s efforts to kick out accomplished, independent scientists and skew advice it receives on critical public health and environmental issues. We hope that EPA will put science back in charge of protecting public health, from now on.”


This decision follows on the heels of an April 15 ruling by another federal court on a case brought by NRDC. In that ruling, Judge Denise Cote of the U.S. District Court in New York, said EPA should stop excluding its grant recipients from serving on the agency’s science advisory panels. She also rejected EPA’s plea that the directive be allowed to remain in effect while the agency searches for a rationale for the policy.

The Pruitt directive aimed to weaken 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 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 and follow us on Twitter @NRDC.​

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