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The Department of Justice Asks That a Federal Court Throw Out a Lawsuit Claiming the EPA Is Violating Ethics Guidelines

Attorneys for the Department of Justice (DOJ) called on Monday for the dismissal of a lawsuit filed against an Environmental Protection Agency policy that enforces new science adviser selection guidelines, the Hill reports.

In light of the lawsuit, DOJ attorneys filed a claim for dismissal on the basis that EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has the authority to choose his own advisers and that the policy upholds government ethics. Trump-nominated Judge Trevor McFadden is deciding the case in the federal District Court for the District of Columbia, according to the Hill.

"Ultimately, the power to appoint committee members is the administrator's alone and is non-reviewable by the courts under the circumstances presented here," said the attorneys in filing the motion for dismissal, according to the Hill. "Plaintiffs' challenge to these highly discretionary policy judgments and the EPA's power to make them is unprecedented and should be rejected by the court."

The policy, enacted by Pruitt in October of 2017, excludes EPA grant recipients from serving on external advisory committees, with the aim of limiting conflicts of interests. Pruitt emphasized the importance of ensuring "integrity in the process" of choosing EPA science advisers.

In response to the policy, advocacy groups including Physicians for Social Responsibility (the leading plaintiff in the case), researchers, and EPA scientists sued the EPA in December, claiming the policy violated government ethics laws.

"[The] EPA's effort to purge independent scientists from its advisory committees has harmful implications for the nation's health," Barbara Gottleib, director of Physicians for Social Responsibility, told the Hill in October of 2017 in response to the policy roll-out.