- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 8, 2021

Top Republicans on the House Oversight and Reform Committee are demanding the Environmental Protection Agency turn over any documents relating to the abrupt firing of 40 outside science advisers appointed by former President Donald Trump. 

Rep. James Comer of Kentucky, the committee’s ranking Republican, told The Washington Times the dismissals warranted further scrutiny as they appeared to be politically motivated. 

“President Biden’s political purge of 40 appointed science board members is jeopardizing the credibility of the Environmental Protection Agency and shows this administration is fast-tracking their radical far-left agenda,” Mr. Comer said Thursday.

Mr. Comer and a Republican colleague on the oversight committee, Rep. Ralph Norman of South Carolina, have sent a letter to the EPA requesting any and all “documents and communications” related to the matter. 

The action comes after EPA Administrator Michael Regan surprised many earlier this month by announcing the removal of 40 outside science consultants from two of his agency’s high-profile advisory panels.

Mr. Regan’s dismissals targeted Trump-era appointees to the Science Advisory Board and the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee. Both panels have significant sway in promulgating environmental regulations by deciding which information and data the EPA uses for such decisions. 

The Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee, in particular, plays a large role in determining regulations on air quality and pollution. 

Mr. Regan has defended his actions, arguing that the Trump administration stacked the panels with energy executives and other individuals friendly to the fossil fuel industry. 

When announcing the firings, the EPA administrator claimed it presented a return to a “time-tested, fair, and transparent process.”  

Trade industry groups, including the American Chemistry Council, pushed back on Mr. Regan’s characterization of the panels’ work during Mr. Trump’s term in office. 

“The [two] standing committees have consistently offered objective, balanced and science-based advice,” a representative for the American Chemistry Council said recently, adding that the firings were “irregular.” 

In making the argument, the representative noted the panels under Mr. Trump approved strong regulations and guidelines on air pollution and fracking. 

The Biden White House has done little to qualm doubts that it is politicizing policy-making. 

Mr. Regan, in fact, has only contributed to the uneasiness by reversing a Trump-era directive barring “academics and non-government officials who received EPA research grants” from serving on the agency’s advisory panels.

Governmental watchdog groups have praised those initiatives for expanding transparency throughout the EPA and limiting conflicts of interest. 

Mr. Comer argued those developments forced Republicans on the oversight committee to act. 

“Past Administrations ensured the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee and Science Advisory Board remained bipartisan and free from day-to-day political pressure,” he said. “The politicization of the EPA raises serious concerns and the administration must answer questions about this decision.”

Neither the White House nor the EPA responded to requests for comment.

The firings of Trump appointees and Mr. Comer’s potential probe into whether the action was partisan is playing out as Democrats are urging the EPA to expand its enforcement of environmental regulations. 

“For the EPA to fully realize its mission, the protection can’t just be on the books,” Rep. Kathleen Rice, New York Democrat, said recently. 

Democrats, in particular, are hoping that Mr. Regan will mobilize the full weight of the EPA’s regulatory power to combat climate change and reach Mr. Biden’s goal of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. 

• Haris Alic can be reached at halic@washingtontimes.com.

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