WASHINGTON — The Environmental Protection Agency plans to dissolve its Office of the Science Advisor, a senior post that was created to counsel the EPA administrator on the scientific research underpinning health and environmental regulations, according to a person familiar with the agency’s plans. The person spoke anonymously because the decision had not yet been made public.
The move is the latest among several steps taken by the Trump administration that appear to have diminished the role of scientific research in policy making while the administration pursues an agenda of rolling back regulations.
A spokesman for the EPA did not return e-mails or phone calls requesting comment on the move.
Separately Tuesday, in an unusual move, the EPA placed the head of its Office of Children’s Health, Dr. Ruth Etzel, on administrative leave, while declining to give a reason for the move. Agency officials told Etzel, a respected pediatric epidemiologist, that the move was not disciplinary. As the head of an office that regularly pushed to tighten regulations on pollution, which can affect children more powerfully than adults, Etzel had clashed multiple times with Trump administration appointees who sought to loosen pollution rules.
The EPA’s science adviser is Jennifer Orme-Zavaleta, an expert on the risks of chemicals to human health who has worked at the EPA since 1981, according to the agency’s website.
Orme-Zavaleta did not respond to e-mails and telephone messages requesting a response for comment.
It was unclear whether Orme-Zavaleta would remain at the EPA once the decision takes effect.
The science adviser works across the agency to ensure that the highest quality science is integrated into the agency’s policies and decisions, according to the EPA’s website.
The changes at the two offices, which both report directly to the head of the EPA, come as the agency’s acting administrator, Andrew Wheeler, a former coal lobbyist, is overseeing a reorganization of the agency.
After dissolving the office of the scientific adviser, Wheeler plans to merge the position into an office that reports to the EPA’s deputy assistant administrator for science.