The Environmental Protection Agency has removed more than 50 scientists from its technical advisory boards after conservative groups provided lists characterizing dozens of scientists as "horrible," "a real activist" or "bleeding-heart liberal."
Louis J. Cordia, deputy director of the agency's Office of Federal Activities, said a political evaluation of more than 90 EPA scientists, released by Sen. Gary Hart (D-Colo.) and others on Capitol Hill, was one of many such appraisals he received during the Reagan administration transition period. Cordia said the evaluation, called a "hit list" on Capitol Hill yesterday, appeared to have been submitted by one of the conservative or industry groups that advised him.
"That sort of thing just flooded in during the transition," he said, "But it's nothing we ever used."
Agency Administrator Anne M. Burford, however, broke with a decade of tradition in 1981 by refusing to reappoint several dozen members of science advisory panels when their fixed terms expired.
Several scientists and EPA officials say these appointees from the Carter and Ford years were replaced primarily with scientists who had reputations as political conservatives. The boards are supposed to be nonpartisan. Their role is to provide technical advice on EPA research and regulations.
Dr. Nicholas Ashford, an associate professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who was called a "menace" on the list, was not reappointed to EPA's Science Advisory Board when his term expired last summer.
Ashford said he and other Carter holdovers were given no work for a year after Burford reorganized the board in 1981.
"It's apparent the administration was attempting to stack the board by choosing scientists of their preference," he said.
Dr. Matthew Meselson, a biochemistry professor at Harvard University who developed the technique for measuring dioxin, is described on the "hit list" as "poison . . . he is a Nader on toxics." Meselson described himself as a moderate, and said that "the government doesn't do itself much good with these silly lists."
Jay Clarence Davies, vice president of the Conservation Foundation, is called "one of the smartest advocates in the business, smooth, absolutely out." Davies' appointment to the board was not renewed in 1981.
Hart said this could be an effort "to purge the agency of all people whose political views are not the same as the president's."
But science board director Terry Yosie said the board still includes balanced viewpoints and has "a reputation for independence." He said Burford has relaxed her policy of not reappointing previous members. Although 58 previous members were terminated as the 1980 board was reduced, Yosie said that half the 37 current members have served under another administration.
Yosie acknowledged, however, that the board has no women and minorities, compared with 32 women and minorities on a 76-member board in 1980.
According to the list, EPA's research division was full of "invidious environmental activists." Employes in the oceans program are described as "snail darter types," or interested in preserving endangered species. And those in the radiation program are "responsible for contrived public awareness for the sole purpose to scare. They should all go."
University of Illinois professor Sam Epstein, whom the list dismissed as "horrible," said the EPA was "picking scientists who are prepared to bend their science for the interests of industry."
In some instances a scientist is described as "anti-nuclear type," "pure ecology type," "plays up to activists," "extremist on toxics, everything is hazardous" and "reported to be both liberal and environmental."
Cordia said the list may have been taken from the 15 boxes of documents that he tried to take home two weeks ago before being stopped by the inspector general's office. He said the boxes contain mostly "background reference documents."
In 1980, Cordia, then working for the conservative Heritage Foundation, criticized the EPA's proposed "Superfund" for toxic waste cleanup as a "superfraud" that "just may result in another 'welfare' program that drives industry bankrupt."
In an article for the foundation, Cordia said the cleanup fund "may be more hazardous than the wastes themselves." He said the EPA was conducting "a propaganda campaign . . . to convince the American people that everyone is endangered by toxic wastes."
Cordia now says the program that Congress eventually adopted "was not the unreasonable thing it could have been."