Tuesday, March 3, 2015
Your Republican Congress at Work
While everyone’s attention was focused on the Senate and the Keystone XL decision on Tuesday, some pretty shocking stuff was quietly going on in the House of Representatives. The GOP-dominated House passed a bill that effectively prevents scientists who are peer-reviewed experts in their field from providing advice — directly or indirectly — to the EPA, while at the same time allowing industry representatives with financial interests in fossil fuels to have their say. Perversely, all this is being done in the name of “transparency.”
Bill H.R. 1422, also known as the Science Advisory Board Reform Act, passed 229-191. It was sponsored by Representative Chris Stewart (R-UT), pictured. The bill changes the rules for appointing members to the Science Advisory Board (SAB), which provides scientific advice to the EPA Administrator. Among many other things, it states: “Board members may not participate in advisory activities that directly or indirectly involve review or evaluation of their own work.” This means that a scientist who had published a peer-reviewed paper on a particular topic would not be able to advise the EPA on the findings contained within that paper. That is, the very scientists who know the subject matter best would not be able to discuss it. h/t The Powerhouse
Established by Congress in 1978, the EPA's Science Advisory Board (SAB) is authorized to: Review the quality and relevance of the scientific and technical information being used by the EPA. Provide science advice as requested by the EPA Administrator. Advise the agency on broad scientific matters.
In other words, the SAB exists not to advocate any particular policy, but to evaluate whether the best science is being used in agency decisions. But what constitutes the "best science" is an increasingly relative concept on Capitol Hill these days. And Rep. Chris Stewart (R-Utah) claimed that he was making it better when he sponsored H.R. 1422, otherwise known as the EPA Science Advisory Board Reform Act of 2013.
Currently, the SAB does include advisors with industry expertise. Of the board's current 51 members, which are appointed by the EPA Administrator for three-year terms, three have industry expertise. But Stewart says that's not enough. "All we're asking is that there be some balance to those experts…We're losing valuable insight and valuable guidance because we don't include them in the process."