Draining a Swamp? Or Bailing a Sinking Ship?

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

The Hill reports the following good news, among other things, regarding Scott Pruitt's terms so far at the EPA:

Image of RMS Titanic, famous for its deck chairs, via Wikipedia.
Consider Pruitt's recent directive prohibiting scientists from serving on one of the agency's three main advisory panels while they are receiving EPA grant funding. It applies to the three main advisory boards at the EPA: The Science Advisory Board, the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASAC), and the Board of Scientific Counselors (BOSC).

Pruitt made the case that the directive is necessary to ensure the agency's research programs are informed by independent experts with no financial ties to the programs. As he noted, advisory board members have received $77 million in grant money over the past three years -- half of the total amount allotted. "When we have members of those committees that received tens of millions of dollars in grants at the same time that they are advising this agency on rulemaking, that is not good," Pruitt said. His directive is prudent, and it is the type of common-sense safeguard that citizens expect in a self-governed republic. [links omitted]
Part of me wants to jump for joy: It's about time someone did something about the obvious conflict of interest between receiving research funding from the same powerful government agency whose regulatory activities one is shaping.

But the fourth word of the above passage stops me short: This remains a directive from the head of an agency that should not exist. Furthermore, there is no larger push to abolish it, because there is no political momentum to bring government back to within its proper scope. We are, in this case, living in a land of men, and not laws. This state of affairs must eventually change or Pruitt's actions -- however well-intended and beneficial in the short term -- will be fragile and likely short-lived.

-- CAV

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