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House Panel Passes Bills to Change How EPA Conducts Scientific Research

A House panel on Thursday passed along partisan lines a pair of bills designed to alter the way the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) conducts its scientific research, as well as membership in the agency's Science Advisory Board (SAB).

The House Committee on Science, Space and Technology passed HR 1430, also known as the Honest and Open New EPA Science Treatment (HONEST) Act of 2017, by a 17-12 vote. The bill calls for prohibiting EPA "from proposing, finalizing or disseminating regulations or assessments based upon science that is not transparent or reproducible."

Specifically, HR 1430 would require EPA to, among other things, use "the best available science" in its covered actions, and to ensure that those actions are "publicly available online in a manner that is sufficient for independent analysis and substantial reproduction of research results..."

"Since American taxpayers foot the bill for EPA regulations, they deserve to have access to the science that supposedly justifies these regulations," Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), the bill's sponsor and the committee's chairman, said in a statement. "The days of 'trust me' science are over.

"If EPA regulations are based on legitimate science, then there should be no reason to deny Americans access to the data. This bill restores confidence in the EPA rulemaking process. EPA will now be able to concentrate its limited resources on quality science that all researchers can examine."

Meanwhile, HR 1431, which lawmakers have dubbed the EPA Science Advisory Board Reform Act of 2017, passed on a 19-14 vote. Under the bill, the SAB would have at least nine members, at least 10% of whom must represent state, local or tribal governments. SAB members would have three-year terms, with the terms staggered so that no more than one-third of the membership has expiring terms within a single fiscal year.

The committee's vice chairman, Rep. Frank Lucas (R-OK), sponsored HR 1431.

"The SAB provides valuable input used to justify policy decisions that impact the lives of millions of Americans," Lucas said. "Unfortunately, limited public participation, EPA interference with expert advice, and conflicts of interest threaten to undermine the board's independence and credibility...

"The safeguards provided in this bill will restore the SAB as an important defender of scientific integrity and promote more credible and balanced policy outcomes from the EPA."

Both bills would amend the Environmental Research, Development and Demonstration Authorization Act of 1978.

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