Although all the scientists being dismissed are at the ends of their three-year terms, appointees to the board are generally not seen as political actors and usually have their terms renewed. That has included the 47-member Scientific Advisory Board, which Republican members of Congress have said needs reworking to "provide meaningful and unbiased scientific advice" and increased transparency.
EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt is recusing himself from lawsuits he was previously involved in as attorney general of Oklahoma, including litigation over the Obama-era Clean Power Plan and Waters of the United States rule.
Replacements for the five academic scientists could come in the form of representatives from industries whose pollution the EPA is supposed to regulate.
"The administrator believes we should have people on this board who understand the impact of regulations on the regulated community".
"I do not think I am speculating when I say that this is a political move", she said. "Instead, they should participate in the same open competitive process as the rest of the applicant pool", Freire said.
J.P. Freire, a spokesman for the agency, said the Trump administration is now looking for nominees who better match the goals of the president. "This approach is what was always intended for the Board and we're making a clear break with the last administration's approach".
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The counselors are typically top academic experts in their fields tasked with helping ensure the agency's scientists follow best practices.
The measure would effectively prevent many scientific experts from serving on the oversight board.
Pruitt has been attacked by critics for his closeness to the energy industry, raising concerns from environmentalists that he will move to replace the board members with more individuals from the energy sector.
Pruitt also disagrees with the consensus of climate scientists that man-made carbon emissions are the primary cause of climate change, saying that limits on burning coal costs jobs. "It's important that high-caliber, world-class, well-respected, well-published, objective scientists be appointed", he said, acknowledging there may be value to "enriching the mix of science that advises the EPA".
Freire told the Post that the EPA might consider industry scientific experts for some board positions as long as the appointments do not pose a conflict of interest.
An EPA spokesperson did not respond to TPM's questions about whether, or how dramatically, Pruitt meant to change the balance of the board to favor industry scientists.
"Science doesn't change with administrations, and good science should be independent of that", said Burke, now a professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.