About That Fox and That Henhouse…

According to the New York Times,
The Environmental Protection Agency has dismissed at least five members of a major scientific review board, the latest signal of what critics call a campaign by the Trump administration to shrink the agency’s regulatory reach by reducing the role of academic research.

A spokesman for the E.P.A. administrator, Scott Pruitt, said he would consider replacing the academic scientists with representatives from industries whose pollution the agency is supposed to regulate, as part of the wide net it plans to cast. “The administrator believes we should have people on this board who understand the impact of regulations on the regulated community,” said the spokesman, J. P. Freire.

The dismissals on Friday came about six weeks after the House passed a bill aimed at changing the composition of another E.P.A. scientific review board to include more representation from the corporate world.

The //Washington Post// reports that the Interior Department is overhauling the more than 200 advisory panels that inform how their agencies assess the science underpinning departmental policies, “the first step in a broader effort by Republicans to change the way the federal government evaluates the scientific basis for its regulations.”

Gee–maybe Jeff Sessions can emulate Scott Pruitt, and allow offenders to rewrite criminal law and incarceration practices–after all, who knows more about crime and punishment than those most immediately affected?

Trump has previously instructed Pruitt to shave 40 percent of the agency’s science budget and to eliminate or severely roll back the most important Obama-era regulations on climate change and clean water protection. Last week, when I was checking some clean water information, I found that the EPA had removed a significant amount of data on climate change from its websites.

Of course, anyone who cares about the environment–or scientific integrity–expected much of this; Pruitt is a climate-change denier. Like most of Trump’s cabinet, he appears to have been chosen in order to dismantle the agency he heads. Betsy DeVos is an enemy of public education, Jeff Sessions has already moved to erode enforcement of civil rights laws.. the list goes on.
The administration has also announced plans to fill federal court vacancies with judges likely to do their bidding.

The only people who will benefit from the policies of this Administration are the rich and the large corporations chafing under “inconvenient” regulations–like the rules against dumping toxic materials into nearby rivers and polluting the drinking water.
Public administration scholars have long been concerned with the problem of “capture”–the process by which regulatory agencies get “cozy” with representatives of the industries they regulate. Some of that is inevitable; especially when you are dealing with complex issues that are salient only to the industry being regulated, it’s understandable that the regulators and those subject to regulation will develop a relationship. That relationship doesn’t necessarily undermine the regulatory process, and it is important to listen to the voices of those being regulated–the voices of those with the most intimate knowledge of the effect of rules being promulgated.

Listening, however, is one thing. Letting the industry write the rules–or rewrite the science justifying the rules–is something else entirely.
In the Trump Administration, the fox apparently lives in the henhouse.
(From Sheila Kennedy, sheilakennedy.net, 5/9/17)