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Despite Veto Threats, House Of Representatives Passes EPA Science Bills

Bills would modify EPA reliance on science

by Steven K. Gibb
March 19, 2015 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 93, Issue 12

The Los Angeles skyline. Smog is prominent.
Credit: Shutterstock
Two bills moving through Congress would alter the ways science informs EPA policy-making, affecting air quality standards and other regulations.

The House of Representatives has passed two controversial bills targeting how EPA uses scientific data and receives scientific advice in order to regulate. If the measures survive Senate votes, they would surely face White House vetoes.

One bill, H.R. 1030, would bar EPA from using any scientific studies, including clinical health research, as it crafts regulations unless it releases all underlying data for public review. Critics say this would hobble the agency in setting health-protective regulations, such as Clean Air Act standards, because key data are protected by patient confidentiality rules. The House passed the legislation on a vote of 241-175 on March 18.

The other measure, H.R. 1029, would mandate that EPA retain more industry panelists for its external Science Advisory Board (SAB). It also would require that 10% of SAB members be representatives from state, local, or tribal governments. The House passed the bill on March 17 on a vote of 236-181.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other industry groups support both bills. Democrats, environmental groups, and 42 universities and scientific organizations—including the American Chemical Society, the publisher of C&EN—say the bills would pose burdensome new requirements on the agency and research scientists.

The White House says the SAB measure “would weaken the scientific independence and integrity” of EPA and its SAB by imposing quotas based on affiliation rather than scientific expertise.

Former SAB director Terry F. Yosie, now with the World Environment Center, an international sustainable development organization, says the bill “is a waste of taxpayers’ money and negates the very objectives it purports to serve.”

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce says H.R. 1029 “would establish requirements that SAB members are qualified experts” and “that the views of members—including dissenting members—are available to the public.”

As the Senate takes up the measures, Democrats say EPA has no resources to cover the $250 million a year the Congressional Budget Office estimates it would take to implement the publicly available science bill.



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