Policy minus science plus review equals new policy?
January 6, 2020 8:06 AM   Subscribe

While top-level science positions remain vacant, scientific advisory panels have been quietly diminished, disbanded or stacked with industry scientists under the Trump Administration ( Inside Climate News), the EPA's Science Advisory Board (SAB), staffed with Trump appointees, (New York Times; archived) took aim at the Trump administration's rewrite of an Obama-era regulation of waterways, an Obama-era effort to curb planet-warming vehicle tailpipe emissions and a plan to limit scientific data that can be used to draft health regulations, as you can read in draft reports for the upcoming public meeting of the SAB. As summarized by Ars Technica, EPA science board to EPA management: Try using some science.
posted by filthy light thief (9 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
It seems from the article that the scientists appointed to the EPA by Trump are sincerely trying to get the science right.
posted by No Robots at 11:27 AM on January 6

The best part of that Ars Technica article is the bit about how the SAB pointed out the flaws in the science behind the new WOTUS rule, offered to fix it, and the administration said no, because instead they're going to just push the question through the courts. Anyone who thinks Trump actually cares about clean water should take note: he don't, they don't, they don't want anyone telling them to stop letting agricultural runoff poison people.
posted by suelac at 11:30 AM on January 6 [7 favorites]

This is a little misleading -- the SAB is almost entirely NOT Trump-era appointees --

"In FY 2018 the SAB had 44 members. Of those, 29 members had terms which do not expire and thus remain on the board. Seven SAB members completed their terms of service in FY 2018. Eight current members of the SAB are timing out of their first term and are eligible for reappointment to their second term. All eight of these first-term members were appointed during the prior (Obama) administration, and all eight will be reappointed by Acting Administrator Wheeler to serve for a second three-year term. Acting Administrator Wheeler is also appointing eight new board members (listed in table 1 below) to bring the total SAB membership to 45 for FY 2019. Dr. Michael Honeycutt is the SAB Chairman." (link)

Now it IS good news that some of those eight appointees turn out to be actual scientists -- Prof. John Guckenheimer is quoted in the Times and he's a systems guy from Cornell. Dunno how he got on the list. Anyway, it's hardly a revolt of Trumpists, that's all I'm saying.

Also interestingly, when I google "EPA Scientific Advisory Board" the top result is a paid ad from the Daily Caller.
posted by PandaMomentum at 11:42 AM on January 6 [7 favorites]

PandaMomentum, thanks for that clarification. I was hasty and picked a New York Times line for the description. And it seems that there are enough actual science-minded people on the board to outweigh people like noted climate-model skeptic John Christy (Climate Change Dispatch). In looking for Guckenheimer, I haven't found any concerning coverage, but I keep feel like I'm missing something.
posted by filthy light thief at 12:52 PM on January 6 [2 favorites]

No worries! We all need to be paying attention to rulemaking and the appointment of judges and all the stuff this administration is doing behind the scenes.

And to seriously thinking about the mechanisms of the national security state that we've placed at the (essentially unsupervised) disposal of the White House, regardless of occupant.
posted by PandaMomentum at 2:06 PM on January 6 [1 favorite]

What a year to celebrate a significant anniversary.

Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced its 50th anniversary theme, “EPA at 50: Progress for a Stronger Future.” (EPA press release, January 6, 2019)
“For fifty years, EPA employees and our many partners have worked together to fulfill the agency’s mission to protect human health and the environment. Today, Americans enjoy cleaner land, air and water than ever before,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “I look forward to celebrating the agency’s accomplishments throughout the year, and I hope that we can inspire the next generation of environmental leaders to continue building on our progress for the next 50 years.”
I look forward to the next administration, who don't install a coal and mining lobbyist to lead the EPA, who then met with former clients and likely validated conflict of interest concerns, and directed EPA staff to stonewall OIG investigations. Committee Chairs to Wheeler: “Instruct all Staff at EPA to cooperate with the OIG” (science.house.gov, Dec. 12, 2019)
“The OIG must remain unencumbered in its ability to conduct independent investigations,” the Committee Chairs wrote. “We are extremely concerned that you are creating an environment at EPA that directly contradicts your 2018 message to employees, is hostile towards accountability, and enables the very waste, fraud, abuse, and mismanagement that Congress has charged the Inspector General to investigate. We urge you to immediately withdraw the Agency’s baseless legal memorandum and instruct all staff at EPA to cooperate with the OIG.”
Let's have a re-do on this celebration in 2021 or 2022.
posted by filthy light thief at 2:20 PM on January 6 [3 favorites]

Somewhat relatedly, I was looking through the USGS “did you feel it” site just now (there has been a sizeable earthquake in Puerto Rico again). And when I was trying to search, I found this link, which does have the usual “DYFI?” as an option, but also now has a whole slew of options with “Trump” in them, for no good reason. Although I had a mild chuckle at the idea of the USGS tracking a set of geological events simply labeled “Trump”, really this indicates an internal problem of staggering degree.

Maybe the EPA should try the same trick. Just append “Trump”! (Sigh).
posted by nat at 1:55 AM on January 7 [1 favorite]


What even are these things? A search and replace gone wrong?
posted by srboisvert at 4:23 AM on January 7

Ah some sort of code. Explained here:

Alters the preferred weight of a specific version of a reference product. If the trump is deleted, the default preferred weight is used. If the reference product is updated, the default preferred weight is used.
Trump products are only processed when the reference product is associated with an event. Trump deletes are only processed when both the original trump and the reference product are still in the index.

Does contain this funny:

Persistent Trump
Alter the preferred weight of a reference product persistently. The TYPE portion of the product type is the Type of the product receiving trump, case-sensitive. Only one product of each type is actively trumped.
If the trump is deleted, the default preferred weight of the reference product is restored. If the reference product is updated, it inherits this trump. Weight is set to a fixed value of 100,000,000.

posted by srboisvert at 4:28 AM on January 7

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