The Environmental Protection Agency is ending the National Center for Environmental Research (NCER) program, which offered millions of dollars annually to scientists conducting research on chemical exposure, including important studies on child health, The Hill reported on Monday.
One of NCER’s main programs, the Science to Achieve Results, or STAR program, received praise from the National Academy of Sciences last year.
“STAR has had numerous successes, such as in research on human health implications of air pollution, on environmental effects on children’s health and well-being, on interactions between climate change and air quality, and on the human health implications of nanoparticles," the organization wrote. "Those are just a few examples; many more could be cited.”
STAR receives particular recognition for its focus on discovering threats to children’s health from environmental conditions. Noteworthy research previously funded by the agency includes acknowledgment that rice cereals could expose babies to arsenic, leading to related Food and Drug Administration regulations, and the realization that children working on farms were being exposed to a neurotoxicant via certain pesticides.
Finally America's children will be allowed to choke on the freedom of a lighter regulatory burden https://t.co/w0w5qPO2g6— Kate Aronoff (@KateAronoff) February 27, 2018
NCER has also supported research into leukemia and neurodevelopment problems.
The abolition of NCER is part of consolidation of three EPA offices, which a department spokesperson explained as an attempt to streamline efficiency.
“In order to maintain the quality and focus of our research, senior leaders from the research and development office are proactively taking steps to create management efficiencies within the organization,” the spokesperson said. “These changes will help EPA’s Office of Research and Development be more responsive to agency priorities and funding realities.”
According to the spokesperson, NCER employees will maintain positions within the EPA, but their responsibilities may change.
EPA administrator Scott Pruitt, who as Oklahoma’s attorney general developed a reputation for fighting environmental regulations, has enacted an aggressive campaign to consolidate the agency. He is recognized as a supporter of large energy companies and sued the EPA 14 times before leading it.
Pruitt has regularly challenged well-established science to deny climate change, and last week, he cited his religious faith as a motivator for empowering the oil and coal industries. Critics have despaired over his appointment, fearing he will seek to destroy the agency to empower the energy industry and abolish environmental regulations.
Kevin Drum from Mother Jones astutely noted that Pruitt has focused on cutting programs that threaten the industries Pruitt supported as Oklahoma’s attorney general:
“The STAR program has been successful,” he wrote. “That means it identifies chemicals that might be harmful to children. And that in turn means trouble for the companies that make those chemicals. We can’t have that, can we?”
By targeting effective scientific programs, Pruitt is doing more than merely prioritizing the interests of the energy industry over the American populace. He is quietly promoting the rejection of fact-based discourse.