John Boehner, Speaker of the United States House of Representatives. Photo: J. Scott Applewhite / AP

By Lindsay Abrams
19 November 2014

(Salon) – Congressional climate wars were dominated Tuesday by the U.S. Senate, which spent the day debating, and ultimately failing to pass, a bill approving the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. While all that was happening, and largely unnoticed, the House was busy doing what it does best: attacking science.

H.R. 1422, which passed 229-191, would shake up the EPA’s Scientific Advisory Board, placing restrictions on those pesky scientists and creating room for experts with overt financial ties to the industries affected by EPA regulations.

The bill is being framed as a play for transparency: Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Texas, argued that the board’s current structure is problematic because it  “excludes industry experts, but not officials for environmental advocacy groups.” The inclusion of industry experts, he said, would right this injustice.

But the White House, which threatened to veto the bill, said it would “negatively affect the appointment of experts and would weaken the scientific independence and integrity of the SAB.”

In what might be the most ridiculous aspect of the whole thing, the bill forbids scientific experts from participating in “advisory activities” that either directly or indirectly involve their own work. In case that wasn’t clear: experts would be forbidden from sharing their expertise in their own research — the bizarre assumption, apparently, being that having conducted peer-reviewed studies on a topic would constitute a conflict of interest. “In other words,” wrote Union of Concerned Scientists director Andrew A. Rosenberg in an editorial for RollCall, “academic scientists who know the most about a subject can’t weigh in, but experts paid by corporations who want to block regulations can.” [more]

House Republicans just passed a bill forbidding scientists from advising the EPA on their own research

By Andrew A. Rosenberg
17 November 2014

(Roll Call) – House leaders have decided that one of the most important things they can do during the lame duck session is to vote on two bills that would cripple good, science-based policy.

The bills’ backers are pitching the legislation as an effort to create transparency at the Environmental Protection Agency. But the science the EPA and other agencies base their rules on is already an open book. These bills are about trying to stop the EPA from doing its job.

Ultimately, these two bills would set unreachable goals and create unnecessary bureaucratic hoops for the agency to jump through, leading to costly delays in agency rule making. Together, they would prevent the EPA from enforcing environmental laws and protecting America’s public health. If members care about the air we breathe, the water we drink, and scientifically-informed public policy, they should oppose these misguided bills.

Sponsored by Rep. David Schweikert, R-Ariz., HR 4012 — the so-called “Secret Science” Reform Act — would create a Catch-22 for the EPA.

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. [more]

Congress Must Block These Attacks on Independent Science



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