New EPA administrator: U-M experts can discuss

February 17, 2017
Jim Erickson


The U.S. Senate today confirmed Scott Pruitt to be the next administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. The University of Michigan has experts who can comment.

Joe Árvai is a member of the EPA’s Science Advisory Board, which is tasked with providing scientific advice to the EPA administrator. He is director of U-M’s Erb Institute for Global Sustainable Enterprise and the Max McGraw Professor of Global Sustainable Enterprise at the School of Natural Resources and Environment and the Ross School of Business.

Árvai can discuss his expectations—as a member of the agency’s Science Advisory Board and as a scientist working at the nexus of the environment and society—for the agency under incoming Administrator Pruitt.

“As an SAB member, I hope that Mr. Pruitt will, like administrators before him, continue to seek advice and input from the SAB, which is comprised of scientists from both universities and the private sector, all of whom have been thoroughly vetted to guard against conflicts of interest,” he said. “And as a scientist and citizen, I expect that the EPA will continue to treat science as secular and to follow the rule of law as it relates to environmental protection. A failure to do so would be a violation of the public trust and a betrayal of future generations.”

Contact: 734-647-3891 or 734-834-2075,, @DecisionLab

Bradley Cardinale is an ecologist who studies how biodiversity affects the healthy functioning of ecosystems in nature. He is director of the Cooperative Institute for Limnology and Ecosystems Research and a professor at the School of Natural Resources and Environment. Cardinale can discuss EPA’s mission to protect the nation’s freshwater.

“Access to sustainable supplies of clean freshwater is one of the greatest challenges we face in the U.S. Like other countries that have gone through industrialization, the U.S. has a long history of dumping everything from garbage to a suite of cancer-causing chemicals into our water,” he said. “Oversight by agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency is not only vitally important for protecting public health, it is critical for protecting the wide variety of goods and services that lakes, rivers and wetlands provide to society.”

Contact: 734-764-9689,

Barry Rabe is a professor at the Ford School of Public Policy and a nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. He was the first social scientist to receive a Climate Protection Award from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 2006 and currently chairs the EPA’s Assumable Waters Advisory Board.

Rabe can discuss any political, management or federalism issues related to the implementation of Pruitt’s EPA agenda, ​including climate change, vehicle emissions and fuel economy, and water policy.

“Scott Pruitt routinely talks about ‘cooperative federalism’ as his mission. But what does that mean for states such as California that routinely want to go above and beyond federal standards?” he said.

Rabe’s blog post titled “What will Scott Pruitt do if he cannot sue EPA?” appeared Dec. 12 in Brookings Brief.

Contact: 734-765-1677,, @BarryRabe

Meghan Duffy is an ecologist and associate professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. Her research focuses on the ecology and evolution of infectious diseases, especially in aquatic ecosystems.

“When we remove environmental protections, we wind up paying for it later, at a much higher cost,” she said. “Without environmental regulations in place, we’ll watch lakes, streams and rivers go from vibrant resources valued for their beauty, recreational opportunities and ecosystems services to uninhabitable dead zones that are dangerous and unsightly.”

Contact: 734-763-3658,, @duffy_ma

Allen Burton is a professor at the School of Natural Resources and Environment and in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences.

One hundred million unique chemicals have been produced in the past 60 years, according to Burton, an environmental toxicologist. Since the 1980s, there has been a steady decline in the amount of money available for external research grants at the EPA, which is primarily responsible for regulating chemical use. Any significant reduction in the agency’s budget is likely to exacerbate this problem, said Burton, who discussed the topic in a recent opinion piece in Environmental Science & Technology.

“The EPA’s mission is to protect human health and the environment,” he said. “They cleaned up many of our polluted waters and saved many species from extinction through common-sense regulations. We cannot return to the polluting ways of the past—indicative of developing nations like China.”

Contact: 734-763-3601,

Richard Rood, professor of climate and space sciences and engineering at the College of Engineering, can discuss the intersections of weather and climate, and climate and society. He recently wrote about adaptive management in the Trump administration for the Climate Policy Blog, an American Meteorological Society project.

“Organization and discipline will be critical attributes for an effective response to the Trump administration’s efforts to deconstruct not only President Obama’s climate actions, but also to weaken a generation of environmental law,” he said. “Critical in effective response is to depersonalize that which is dismissive, insulting and hurtful. The goal is to resist the emotional bait.”

Contact: 301-526-8572,

Peter Jacobson is a professor of health law and policy and director of the Center for Law, Ethics, and Health at the U-M School of Public Health. He can speak about the legal/public health aspects of the Flint water crisis and EPA regulatory policy during the Trump administration.

“Reducing EPA’s powers, either through an arbitrary regulatory repeal process or the failure to update clean water regulations, will severely curtail the EPA’s powers,” he said. “Doing so will make it harder to protect clean and safe water and prevent another Flint water crisis.”

Contact: 734-936-0928,