is it just a slow enough news day that someone has to reach back 6 years to find something controversial?
Careful reading of the story shows no obvious reason this is being trotted out now. Perhaps there is another push to oust someone
else going on behind the scenes that we are not aware of.
But the story does hint at a less controversial reason for the removal, in that as a federal official, she was in charge of
essentially propping up her own work, previously done at the state level.
I think one of the comments on TFA said it best:
Also conflicts of interest are not necessarily simply personal. There are also institutional conflicts of interest.
" In Maine, Rice's research had supported a state ban on the chemical."
Now Rice Chairs a similar review at a federal level. For federal researchers, voting on any research protocol regarding a chemical when also having been in a principal investigator position regarding the same protocol regarding that chemical (or supervising those voting on the protocol/supervising the principal investigators on) is an ethics violation.
In short, there is valid reasons for this action to have been taken. Imagine, if you will, that a chemical was being voted for APPROVAL, instead of being banned. Imagine further that a researcher who did all the studies about safety on this chemical sat on and chaired the approval committee. Would we want that to be allowed? Wouldn't people be screaming about that pretty loudly?
The American Chemical Council has no particular dog in this fight. Flame retardant is simply one of thousands of chemicals covered by this organization which has members in hundreds of different companies. I doubt flame retardant is even a blip on their radar. Yet the story makes it out as if this organization exists solely to make sure this flame retardant is not banned.
In actuality, "The EPA itself had raised concerns -- ones so significant that in late 2009 the agency and several chemical companies agreed to phase out its production." Presumably these several chemical companies were already members of the American Chemistry Council.
One could also take the position that a strictly ethical researcher would not have accepted an appointment to a panel investigating the very work that he/she pioneered. And, at the very least, would not have accepted the CHAIR of such a panel. Its sort of like doing your own peer reviews.
In short, I think your assessment of digging for controversy where none exists is spot on.