CRAMER: EPA Science Board Reform Bill Ensures Transparency, Public Review
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman Kevin Cramer supported legislation passed by the House of Representatives today reforming the Science Advisory Board at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
H.R. 1431, the EPA Science Advisory Board Reform Act of 2017, establishes qualifications for members, reinforces the independence of the Board, and facilitates public participation in the Board’s advisory activities.
According to the Congressional Research Service, almost 60 percent of the members of EPA’s standing scientific advisory panels directly received National Center for Environmental Research grants from the Agency since 2000. These advisors served as investigators for grants representing hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars. And the research they are being asked to independently review is often directly related to the grants they received. In addition, Public participation is limited during most Board meetings, and virtually no ability exists for interested parties to comment on the scope of the Board’s reviews.
“The EPA Advisory Board has been nothing but a rubber stamp for the EPA itself,” said Cramer. “The reforms in this bill bring greater transparency to the EPA, and requires board members to have a diversity of backgrounds and balanced points of view. It also requires they disclose potential conflicts of interest with the work of the EPA.”
Cramer said the bill clarifies the authority of the Science Advisory Board. “It establishes the board as having an advisory capacity and not having the authority to make EPA policy determinations,” he said. “And, it allows public review of the work it does.”
Highlights of H.R. 1431 include:
- The bill establishes the members of the Board be individuals whose education, training, and experience qualify them to evaluate scientific and technical information. It requires the scientific and technical points of view be fairly balanced among Board members, and that at least 10 percent of the members be drawn from state, local, or tribal governments.
- It requires the Board to solicit nominations from the public and from relevant federal agencies, and requires that the list of nominations and the entities that nominated them be made public. Upon their provisional nomination, nominees must disclose their financial relationships and interests—including EPA grants, contracts, cooperative agreements, or other financial assistance that is relevant to the Board’s activities. They must also disclose relevant professional activities.
- It reinforces the independence of the Board and facilitates public participation in its advisory activities by making all reports and relevant scientific information public, and providing information to both the public and the Board simultaneously when it is received.
- It requires the Board to hold public information-gathering sessions before conducting major advisory activities, solicit public comments on questions to be asked to the Board, encourage public comments during Board proceedings, and require public comments to be published in the Federal Register. Reports by the Board must include written responses to significant and substantive public comments and the public must be given an additional fifteen days following Board meetings to give additional comments.
- It requires the Board to strive to avoid making policy determinations or recommendations, and requires that any policy advice be distinguished from scientific determinations.
Congress established the EPA Science Advisory Board in 1978 to provide scientific advice requested by the EPA Administrator and interested Congressional Committees. The board’s mission is to review the quality and relevance of the scientific and technical information used or proposed for EPA regulations, research programs and analytic methods critiques. It also advises the EPA on broad scientific matters in science, technology, social and economic issues.