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Trump administration threatens to poison EPA with partisan review of science

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Work Continues On Clean Up Of Gowanus Canal Superfund Site Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images

The Trump administration intends to submit scientific research conducted by the Environmental Protection Agency to political review, NPR reports. It’s a move that could pollute the EPA’s scientific integrity, and suppress science that doesn’t align with the reigning political ideology.

This new vetting process is still nebulous, Doug Ericksen, a state senator from Washington who is heading up EPA communications during the transition, told NPR in an interview. Ericksen only said that publications and presentations might be internally reviewed before they’re released.

He later added that the review would also include the webpage, telling the Associated Press that the Trump administration will evaluate “whether climate stuff will be taken down.” Even raw data about air and water pollution would be “subject to review.

"We'll take a look at what's happening so that the voice coming from the EPA is one that's going to reflect the new administration," Ericksen told NPR. Calling scientific results a “voice,” and requiring them to “reflect the new administration” is a chilling perversion of the scientific process.

It’s still not clear if this is a permanent policy, or how it would work. Until it’s clarified, Ericksen’s words are just causing chaos, and that could be the point. After all, today’s salvo is just the latest attack by the Trump administration in its ongoing battle against the EPA.

First, Trump appointed Scott Pruitt, who has close ties with the energy industry and a history of trying to erode EPA regulations. Earlier this week, the Trump administration froze EPA’s grants and budget contracts, and gagged its employees — blocking them from speaking to the press or posting on social media. Now, EPA scientists might not be able to communicate with their colleagues outside of the EPA, either.

Sean Spicer disavowed the White House’s involvement in gagging the EPA, the AP reports. It’s not clear where the order would then be coming from.

This direct political interference with scientific results violates EPA’s integrity policy, which bans interference with the “timely release of scientific findings or conclusions,” NPR reports. What’s more, much of this research is taxpayer funded; preventing results from reaching the rest of the scientific community is a waste of taxpayer money.

Update 5:23PM EST, 1/25: Updated to include new information published by the Associated Press.