The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) cannot block recipients of agency funding from participating on its science advisory boards, a federal judge said yesterday.
The ruling from Senior Judge Denise Cote of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York follows her decision earlier this year that said EPA needed to provide a "reasoned explanation" for the 2017 ban, which resulted in the ouster of scientists from advisory panels (Greenwire, 11 February).
The judge requested recommendations for next steps in the case and was ultimately persuaded by the Natural Resources Defense Council's arguments that scrapping the policy would not require the agency to immediately restructure its advisory committees.
"It simply means that the EPA may not categorically exclude EPA grant recipients from serving on advisory committees, given this Court's conclusion that the EPA's reasoning and record rendered its decision to do so arbitrary and capricious," Cote, a Clinton appointee, wrote in her decision.
"The EPA must simply return to the standards that it historically applied until those standards were altered by the Directive," she wrote.
NRDC called Cotes' decision a "repudiation" of attempts by the Trump administration to silence independent scientists.
"This is an important victory for science and health," attorney Vivian Wang said in a statement. "It underscores the crucial role of science in protecting our environment and public health — at a time we need science at the forefront to guide us through a dangerous pandemic."
Several courts are currently considering challenges to EPA's 2017 directive.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit recently heard oral arguments on the same question, and the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last month ordered a lower bench to revisit its finding that the policy was not reviewable in court.
EPA said it is examining the ruling.
"We continue to litigate this issue in several courts and believe that the policy is a proper exercise of the Administrator's discretion to appoint board members that will provide the best possible service to the Agency," EPA said.
Reprinted from Greenwire with permission from E&E News. Copyright 2020. E&E provides essential news for energy and environment professionals at www.eenews.net