Under Administrator Scott Pruitt, the Environment Protection Agency has decided not to renew the contracts of half the scientists on its Board of Scientific Counselors, the board’s chairwoman, Deborah Swackhamer, confirmed Monday. The board’s latest three-year term expired on April 30, with members limited to serving two terms. In an unprecedented move by the agency, nine of the board’s 18 scientific experts received word via email that their appointments would not be renewed, despite being eligible to serve a second term. The first round of emails circulated on Friday and continued over the weekend.
“Today, I was Trumped,” Robert Richardson, an ecological economist and associate professor at Michigan State University, tweeted on Friday. “I have had the pleasure of serving on the EPA Board of Scientific Counselors, and my appointment was terminated today.” On Sunday, Richardson told The Washington Post he was “kind of shocked” to learn he would have to reapply for his current position. “I’ve never heard of any circumstance where someone didn’t serve two consecutive terms,” he said.
This sentiment was echoed on Monday by fellow board member Courtney Flint, a professor of natural resource sociology at Utah State University. Flint told CNN that the news of her termination “came as a surprise,” adding: “I do not think I am speculating when I say that this is a political move.” On the same day, Flint informed the Post that she was told to expect a renewal of her appointment.