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House Of Representatives Passes Bills Targeting Environmental Protection Agency

Congress: Republicans’ action presages 2015 agenda against pollution control regulations

by Jessica Morrison
November 20, 2014

Republicans in the House of Representatives this week offered a glimpse of what’s to come for the Environmental Protection Agency in 2015. They have pushed through three pieces of legislation designed to stymie EPA’s pollution control regulations.

The current Senate is unlikely to take up the three measures. But House leaders are likely to reintroduce the bills next year in the new Congress, where a Republican-controlled Senate may consider them. If the bills land on President Barack Obama’s desk, the White House says, he intends to veto them.

The first of these measures—H.R. 1422, which the House passed on Nov. 18—would change the way EPA selects external experts for its Science Advisory Board. The bill opens the door to more members from industry. It also would require advisers to provide written responses to “significant comments” from the public, a move that several former board chairs say would significantly slow the panel’s work. In addition, the bill would prohibit experts from participating in advisory activities that “directly or indirectly involve review and evaluation of their own work.”

The House passed the second bill, the proposed Secret Science Reform Act, on Nov. 19. This measure, H.R. 4012, would require EPA to base its regulatory actions solely on publicly available scientific data. Critics point out that the bill would preclude EPA from using peer-reviewed medical studies that commonly protect confidential patient information from public release.

H.R. 4012 targets EPA’s Clean Air Act regulations, which the agency in part bases on the results of clinical studies. “Nearly every major air quality regulation from this Administration has been justified by data that have been kept secret,” says House Science, Space & Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas).

Smith has unsuccessfully sought the clinical data used in support of recent air regulations. He says H.R. 4012 will promote transparency, adding, “Costly environmental regulations should only be based upon data that are available to independent scientists and the public.”

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy has said the protection of patients’ confidential health data isn’t tantamount to keeping research secret.

The American Chemistry Council, a chemical industry trade group, argues that H.R. 4012 would improve “the disclosure of information underpinning the agency’s decisions.”

The House approved the third bill in the package today. The industry-backed measure, H.R. 4795, would make it easier for manufacturers to obtain air pollution permits from EPA. Democrats opposed the proposed measure, arguing that it would weaken clean air protections.



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