Environment, Trump Administration

EPA chief Scott Pruitt appoints Donald van der Vaart to revamped, anti-reg Science Advisory Board

Former  NC Secretary of the Environment Donald van der Vaart joins several anti-regulatory, pro-industry appointees to the EPA’s Science Advisory Board. (Photo: NC DEQ)

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt today is expected to appoint Donald van der Vaart, the former NC Secretary of the Environment, to a key panel charged with giving scientific advice to the agency’s leadership.

Van der Vaart is one of several new appointees to the EPA’s Scientific Advisory Board; nearly all Pruitt’s picks have a history of opposing environmental regulation or have worked for corporations that have been regulated by the EPA.

Earlier this year, Pruitt jettisoned members of the SAB — many of them respected scientists — arguing that anyone who has received EPA funding should be excluded from the board. But Pruitt’s justification — that funding recipients would have a conflict of interest — disguised his true intent: To pack the SAB with yesmen and yeswomen, with their own set of ethical conflicts, who would embrace the task of relaxing or eliminating environmental regulations.

The Washington Post reported yesterday that the appointees represent “voices from regulated industries, academics and environmental regulators from conservative states, and researchers who have a history of critiquing the science and economics underpinning tighter environmental regulations.”

Van der Vaart fills that bill. Last November, he wrote a letter to President-elect Trump, advocating for a dismantling of the EPA. As DEQ Secretary, Van der Vaart publicly announced that the agency would become more “business-friendly,” which translated into more lenient permitting and enforcement. He joined several states’ environmental departments in suing the EPA over the Clean Power Plan and the Waters of the US rule.

He now works in DEQ’s Division of Air Quality, where he demoted himself to avoid being fired by the incoming administration.

One Comment


  1. richard manyes

    November 1, 2017 at 5:28 am

    I am glad that this article agrees with Administrator Pruitt that former members of the SAB who received grant money (a lot of it) from EPA were conflicted. (Note statement referring to the new members as having “their own set of ethical conflicts.” I am at a loss as to what those would be for the former Secretary. Doesn’t he still work for NC DEQ? So where is his “conflict?” It seems to me that, at least with this selection, Pruitt is gaining an independent voice.

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