Yesterday, the House voted on the so-called EPA Science Advisory Board Reform Act. The bill is designed to weaken scientific authority, increase corporate influence over EPA rulemaking, and burden the Science Advisory Board with more work to do on its already limited funds.
This bill modifies the selection requirements and operating procedures of the Science Advisory Board (SAB), which provides scientific advice to the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Under this bill, the EPA would be required to select members for the SAB that represent a “balanced” view of scientific issues, regardless of the legitimacy of those views – exposing the Board to potentially politically motivated beliefs not grounded in actual science. Additionally, the bill would allow up to 90% of SAB members to be private-sector scientists with direct ties to the industries – opening the door for corporations to hold powerful influence over its decisions and recommendations to the EPA.
The bill would also require a number of changes to the SAB’s operation. The Board would be required to release to the public all scientific information used in determining its advisories to EPA, indicating any and all "uncertainties" associated with the scientific advice it does provide, and it must ensure that the advice it provides to EPA reflect the views of all Board members. It also would allow the public to file public comments on those advisories and require the Board to respond to all public comments – forcing the SAB to waste time and limited funds on burdensome administrative requirements instead of actually advising the EPA on science. These additional requirements that the bill demands of the SAB are essentially designed to keep it from getting anything accomplished, especially since the bill contains no additional resources for the board to function.The White House has already stated that it would veto the bill.
Republicans went ahead anyway. It passed the House 229 to 191 on a mostly party line vote.
Only four Democrats voted for it: John Barrow (GA-12), Jim Matheson (UT-04), Collin Peterson (MN-07), and Nick Rahall (WV-03). Matheson is retiring, and Barrow and Rahall just lost re-election.
Only one Republican voted against it: Chris Gibson (NY-19), who lives in a district with a strong conservationist presence.
Today, the House passed the Secret Science Reform Act of 2014. What is this "secret science" of which Republicans speak?
Let me let Dr. Andrew Rosenberg, director of the Union of Concerned Scientists, explain:
Today, anyone with an Internet connection, including members of Congress, can already look up which studies the agency relies on for crafting new rules. But in many cases it cannot legally publish raw data. This bill would require the agency to make all data public before creating new rules while blocking the agency from disclosing private medical data, trade secrets and industry data.
The result? The EPA would not be able to adopt any new rules to protect public health.
Under HR 4012, some of the best real-world public health research, which relies on patient data like hospital admissions, would be excluded from consideration because personal data could not, and should not, be made public. Demanding public release of full raw data the agency cannot legally disclose is simply a way to accuse the agency of hiding something when it has nothing to hide.
What matters is not raw data but the studies based on these data, which have gone through the scientific process, including rigorous peer review, safeguards to protect the privacy of study participants, and careful review to make sure there’s no manipulation for political or financial gain. As many politicians have taken pains to point out, they are not scientists, so they should listen to scientific advice instead of making spurious demands for unanalyzed data.And to make matters worse, the CBO reported that meeting the demands of the law would cost between $10,000 and $30,000 for each scientific study used by the agency. The EPA relies on about 50,000 studies per year.
To put it simply, they want to make it more difficult for the EPA to issue rules.
The bill passed 236 to 191.
Seven Democrats voted for it:
John Barrow (GA-12)
Jim Costa (CA-16)
Henry Cuellar (TX-28)
Jim Matheson (UT-04)
Bill Owens (NY-21)
Collin Peterson (MN-07)
Nick Rahall (WV-03)
Again, Chris Gibson (NY-19) was the only Republican to oppose it.
As I noted earlier, Barrow, Matheson, and Rahall won't be returning to the 114th Congress. Neither will Owens.
The White House has already issued its intent to veto this bill should it reach the president's desk (which it won't).