The Agency for Environmental Protection laid out plans to improve the integrity of science today, including the creation of two internal scientific policy advisory councils. One will focus on the Office of Pollution and Toxics Prevention and the Office of Pesticide Programs and be led by a science policy advisor, a new senior-level role within the agency. EPA will also test the New Chemicals Division.
The announcement came after The Intercept reported extensively on allegations of corruption from five whistleblowers within the New Chemicals Division, which is part of the Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics, and detailed wide problem within the Office of Pesticide Programs.
Whistleblowers provided detailed evidence of disruption in the analysis of dozens of new chemicals submitted to the agency by companies planning to introduce them to the market. Scientists document extreme pressure within the agency to reduce or eliminate evidence of potential harm caused by chemicals, including neurological effects, birth defects, and cancer. They too reported that their findings were altered or removed from the assessments without their knowledge.
EPA described its planned effort to promote scientific integrity in the New Chemicals Division as “a top effort to catalog, prioritize, and improve standard operating procedures (SOPs), decision-making and record keeping related to the review and management of new chemicals under the Toxic Substances Control Act. ”The agency’s“ New Chemicals Advisory Committee, ”one of two new internal advisory groups, will review the issues science policy and science associated with new chemical submissions.
“Strong and efficient science demonstrates confidence in our decision -making to the public we serve. Today’s announcements are the latest in a series of steps OCSPP is taking to reaffirm our commitment to the integrity of science and restore public confidence, ”said Michal Freedhoff, assistant administrator of the EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention. Since taking office, President Joe Biden has repeatedly expressed his desire to remove industry influence in environmental policy, which has thrive during the previous administration.
But Tim Whitehouse, executive director of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, is skeptical that the proposed changes will adequately address the agency’s broad problems if the EPA does not also punish staff members who have proven violate the integrity of science. .
“While these processes and procedures can improve the situation within offices, they cannot change the culture within the agency,” Whitehouse said. “The main problem the EPA has to deal with is that level managers who violate scientific integrity policies and integrity need to be held accountable. And it doesn’t seem to be happening.”
The manipulation of chemical assessments carried out by whistleblowers is only part of a larger problem with the agency, according to Whitehouse. “I expect senior managers and political leaders at the EPA to get in touch and personally talk and talk, not just with our clients, but with the dozens of people who have filed complaints against the integrity of science. in their management, “he said.
The EPA inspector general is currently investigating allegations made by whistleblowers.