At least half of the members of a key EPA scientific research panel have been dismissed, fueling speculation that they will be replaced by appointees from the very industries the agency regulates.

News sources report that nine of the 18-member Board of Scientific Counselors which evaluates research on climate change, water quality and chemical safety, among other areas, were let go after their three-year-terms ended. More terminations are expected. Board members are scientific, rather than political, nominees.

The Board is composed of academics, environmental group leaders, industry and government officials. It provides advice to the EPA’s Office of Research and Development. Those who were dismissed are from academia and the public sector.

A spokesman for EPA head Scott Pruitt said the administrator “believes we should have people on this board who understand the impact of regulations on the regulated community.”

The president of a union representing more than 9,000 EPA employees warned of the potential impact on human health and the environment.

“One of the gravest concerns we have is whether the US EPA’s SAB will be repopulated with scientists who operate within the realm of opinion, rather than fact,” said John O’Grady, president of the American Federation of Government Employees Council 238, in a statement. “We are already aware of the opinion of this Administration and Mr. Pruitt with respect to climate change. However, opinions are neither fact nor theory and do not belong to the realm of science. Without independence and sound peer review of the science conducted by the Agency, it will be impossible to distinguish between good science and bad science at the US EPA.”

President Donald Trump has taken aim at climate change initiatives and regulations across a range of federal agencies and has proposed reducing the EPA’s budget by 31 percent in 2018. Those cuts would reduce funding of the EPA’s other research review panel, the Science Advisory Board, by 84 percent.

As Attorney General of Oklahoma, Pruitt sued the EPA over regulations like the Obama-era Clean Power Plan and Waters of the United States rule.