Vote Explanation for H.R. 1431 — EPA Science Advisory Board Act of 2017

I voted against H.R. 1431, the EPA Science Advisory Board Act of 2017, which would require the EPA’s Science Advisory Board (SAB) to modify its disclosure requirements for members and implement other changes that would undermine the traditionally objective work of the Board. This is yet another anti-science bill pushed by the Republican Party to undermine the objective use of data, facts, and scientific analysis in exchange for the influence of mega-corporations and industry. It’s particularly sad that it undermines a historically bipartisan agency — created under a Republican president — that saves lives and improves the health of American citizens by protecting the air we breathe and the water we drink.

The SAB was created in 1978 to provide independent reviews of the science and research conducted by the EPA that are then used in the agency’s rulemaking process. Members are appointed by the EPA Administrator and serve staggered three-year terms.

Contrary to longstanding practice, this bill allows individuals with financial conflicts of interest to serve on the SAB so long as those conflicts are disclosed. In addition, this legislation would require the SAB to make all reports and related scientific information available to the public at the same time they are made available to members. Coupled with barring the agency from imposing an “insufficient or arbitrary time restriction” on public comments at SAB meetings or hearings, this legislation creates an endless loop of public comment and response that will prevent the Board from providing the EPA with scientific advice in a useful period of time.

Most worrisome is that H.R. 1431 creates significant roadblocks for academic experts to meaningfully participate on the SAB by banning their participation in “advisory activities that directly or indirectly involve review and evaluation of their own work.” Consequently, the very people — scientists, academics, and researchers — we want to advise the EPA Administrator would be prevented from doing so.

Essentially, H.R. 1431 would make it nearly impossible for the SAB to do the crucial independent evaluations of EPA scientific analyses that enable the agency to protect public health and the environment. For these reasons, I strongly opposed this legislation.