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Dec 7, 1:32 PM EST

EPA chief denies sidelining science pros to appease industry



WASHINGTON (AP) -- Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt says his proposed regulatory rollbacks and other policies are grounded in science. He dismisses criticisms that he is ignoring experts in a push to appease favored industries.

Pruitt defended his approach Thursday during his first appearance before the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which oversees the EPA. The Republican former Oklahoma attorney general says science is central to the agency's review of pollutants, toxic waste cleanups and other actions.

Democrats grilled Pruitt over what ranking member Frank Pallone of New Jersey called an "unprecedented assault on independent science" by purging academic experts from agency advisory boards and replacing them with industry representatives.

Pruitt says he is requiring scientists to choose between receiving EPA grants and serving on agency committees to avoid conflicts of interest.

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