Stewart’s bill passes House; enhances transparency, balance at the EPA

stock image, St. George News

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Tuesday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed Republican Rep. Chris Stewart’s bill which reforms the Environmental Protection Agency’s scientific advisory process. The EPA Science Advisory Board Reform Act makes changes to the EPA’s Science Advisory Board, or SAB, to enhance public participation, improve the process for selecting expert advisors, expand transparency requirements and limit non-scientific policy advice.

“Through the EPA, the Obama Administration is aggressively pursuing costly regulations that impact nearly every sector of the American economy,” Stewart said. “These rules should be based on sound scientific assertions and conclusions. It’s critical that we have a balanced panel of experts operating in an open and transparent way.  This bill improves that process in key areas.”

Established by Congress in 1978, the SAB plays an important role in reviewing the scientific foundation of EPA regulatory decisions, while also broadly advising the Agency on science and technology-related matters.

“Ensuring that the Science Advisory Board is balanced and transparent will help instill more confidence in the EPA’s decision making process,” Stewart said.

Criticisms of the current advisory process include:

  • Many panel members publicly state strong policy preferences where they should only be providing impartial scientific reviews.
  • According to the Congressional Research Service, almost 60 percent of the members of EPA’s standing scientific advisory panels directly received National Center for Environmental Research grants from the Agency. These advisors served as investigators for grants representing hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars. This has resulted in many panel members reviewing their own work.
  • Public participation is limited during most SAB meetings, and virtually no ability exists for interested parties to comment on the scope of SAB reviews.
  • Private sector industry expertise on panels is typically minimal, and in some cases is entirely excluded, despite existing statutory requirements that membership “be fairly balanced in terms of the points of view represented.”

To address these shortcomings, H.R. 1422:

  • Strengthens public participation and public comment opportunities.
  • Improves the make-up of SAB and its sub-panels by reinforcing peer review requirements regarding balance and independence.  The bill also reduces potential conflicts of interest by requiring enhanced disclosure of members’ financial relationships relevant to board activities.
  • Requires opportunities for dissenting panelists to make their views known.
  • Requires communication of uncertainties in scientific findings and conclusions.
  • Limits non-scientific policy advice and recommendations, while requiring explicit disclosure of such advice when SAB feels compelled to provide it.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, American Chemistry Council, American Farm Bureau Federation, National Association of Manufacturers, and more than 20 other outside groups have also voiced support for H.R. 1422.

Original co-sponsors of the EPA Science Advisory Board Act include: Reps. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, Ralph Hall, R-Texas, Dana Rohrabacher, R-California; Andy Harris, R-Maryland; and Dan Benishek, R-Michigan.

Additional co-sponsors of the Act include: Reps. Steve Daines, R-Montana, Rob Bishop, R-Utah, Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, Joe Barton, R-Texas, Tom Price, R-Georgia, Steve Stockman, R-Texas, Lynn Westmoreland, R-Georgia, Michele Bachmann, R-Minnesota, John Kline, R-Minnesota, Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyoming, Trent Franks, R-Arizona, Kevin Cramer, R-North Dakota, David Schweikert, R-Arizona, Paul Broun, R-Georgia, Don Young, R-Arkansas, Vicky Hartzler, R-Missouri.


See the full text of the bill here: EPA Science Advisory Board Reform Act

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