EPA’s Pruitt Cleared of Violating the Agency’s Scientific Integrity Policy

In the midst of a scorched-earth campaign by environmental groups against EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, the Administrator has been exonerated against charges that he violated the Agency’s Scientific Integrity Policy.

This week, Thomas Sinks, Director of the Science Advisor for the Scientific Integrity Review Panel, responded to Sierra Club’s complaint.   The Panel responded:

In his response, the Administrator expressed his opinion regarding contributors to global warming and called for more debate, review, and analysis as a precursor to any future EPA policy decision on that matter.  This expression of opinion, which was not made in a decisional context, is fully within the protections of EPA’s Scientific Integrity Policy and does not violate that Policy.  We also note that, in his remarks, the Administrator did not suppress or alter Agency scientific findings.  

Expressing an opinion about science is not a violation of the EPA Scientific Integrity Policy.  Indeed, the Scientific Integrity Policy – in the spirit of promoting vigorous debate and inquiry – specifically encourages employees to express their opinion should the employee disagree with scientific data, scientific interpretations, or scientific conclusions. 

Here is the letter in its entirety,  EPA Response to Sierra-Club-letter.  Many environmentalists are disappointed and, yes, even appalled, that Scott Pruitt is the head of the nation’s environmental protection agency, but this conclusion by the Scientific Integrity Panel represents a small victory for the Administrator and, more importantly, the critical importance of robust scientific deliberation and exchange.  The Administrator is correct in encouraging more research and discussions.  By extension, the same protections under the policy are afforded to all agency personnel, even those who may disagree with the Administrator.  This is a good day for scientific integrity.  My one hope is that the Administrator and climate scientists will continue to pursue these very complex scientific questions and policy solutions with much humility and an open mind.