The Board of Scientific Counselors is tasked with reviewing research conducted by EPA scientists.
An EPA spokesman told The New York Times that the administration "believes we should have people on this board who understand the impact of regulations on the regulated community".
By expanding the applicant pool, Freire likely means opening up the advisory board to more members of industry (it's mostly been filled with people from academia).
"We are going to look at all applicants that come in, because this is an open and competitive process", Freire said. The Washington Post reported Monday that EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt had dismissed half of the board's members. 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.
One of those scientists no longer on the Board of Scientific Counselors was Michigan State University environmental scientist Robert Richardson. "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".
According to The New York Times, EPA spokesman J.P. Freire suggested that Scott Pruitt is considering replacing the ousted scientists with representatives from industries subject to EPA regulations.
Ryan Jackson, Pruitt's chief of staff, noted in an email that all the board members whose terms are not being renewed could reapply for their positions. "Members of the board say they have reviewed the EPA's scientific research on the public health impact of leaking underground fuel tanks, the toxicity of the chemicals used to clean up oil spills, and the effects of the spread of bark beetles caused by a warming climate", the Times writes.
The EPA Science Advisory Board Reform Act, which Smith co-sponsored and which passed the House in late March, bars anyone who has an ongoing EPA research grant from serving on the Science Advisory Board, another board that helps oversee work at the EPA, and prohibits board members from applying for grants for three years after they step down from the panel.
But EPA career staffers misspoke, and the Trump administration had no intention of keeping the Obama holdovers. Dropping experts who could challenge the scientific basis for his decisions might sound depressing, but it's wholly consistent with everything else we've seen so far. In his short stint as head of the EPA, he has baselessly rejected that carbon dioxide is a major contributor to climate change and made comments on Fox News that support expanding the use of coal burning in electricity generation.