MN Scientist Accuses EPA of Asking Her to Change Testimony

EPA Advisor Deborah Swackhamer
Deborah Swackhamer, image from UMN.

WASHINGTON – A Minnesota scientist who heads up an advisory board of scientists for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is accusing the agency’s chief of staff of pressuring her to change her testimony.

Deborah Swackhamer, a former University of Minnesota professor, says Chief of Staff Ryan Jackson asked her to stick to the agency’s stances, reports ABC News. Specifically, Swackhamer claims she was asked to uphold the line that the Trump administration’s decision not to reappoint a number of members of the Board of Scientific Counselors was not yet finalized.

Emails between Swackhamer and Jackson were submitted to Congressional Democrats for review. The New York Times reports that the decisions not to reappoint the scientists were made final prior to Swackhamer’s May 23 testimony, and that more scientists have been let go in the weeks since then. Jackson asked her to correct her testimony before Congress, and say that the dismissals had not yet been finalized.

“The Board of Scientific Counselors had 68 members two months ago. It will have 11 come Sept. 1,” Dr. Swackhamer said, reports The New York Times. “They’ve essentially suspended scientific activities by ending these terms.”

The Board of Scientific Counselors is a purely advisory committee that provides advice and recommendations to the EPA’s Office of Research and Development regarding technical and management issues on the agency’s research programs.

Swackhamer had been invited to testify by Democrats on the House Science Committee, reports the Pioneer Press. While there she stressed that she was testifying only in her personal capacity as science and policy expert, and was not testifying in any official capacity she holds with the EPA.

Swackhamer’s testimony also stated that EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt did not renew half of the board’s 18 executive committee members’ appointments, reports the Pioneer Press. Ostensibly an agency spokesman cited a need for more representation from industry players as a reason for the non-renewals.

“It’s disappointing that the minority is politicizing what seems to be nothing more than a federal agency making sure that information provided to Congress is accurate,” Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX21), the chairman of the House Science Committee said, reports The New York Times. “Dr. Swackhamer and the Minority have repeatedly stated that she was testifying in her personal capacity and not in connection with her role as chair of the E.P.A. Board of Scientific Counselors.

Anders Koskinen