Subcommittee Discusses Need to Improve EPA Scientific Advisory Process

Mar 20, 2013

Washington D.C. – The Subcommittee on Environment today held a hearing to examine the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) process for receiving independent scientific advice. 

Chairman Chris Stewart (R-Utah): “Whether it is promulgating air quality regulations that could shut down large swaths of the West, undertaking thinly veiled attacks on the safety of hydraulic fracturing, or pursuing job-killing climate regulations that will have no impact on the climate, EPA’s reputation as a lightning rod for controversy is well known here in Washington and throughout the country.  Less well known and understood, however, is the underlying regulatory science and scientific advisory mechanisms that the Agency uses to justify its aggressive regulatory approach.”

Despite a statutory requirement that EPA’s advisory panels be “fairly balanced in terms of point of view represented,” the Agency routinely excludes private sector expertise.  In late 2011, EPA finalized a regulation on power plants that will cost $11 billion per year.  EPA had prevented virtually all industry scientists from participating in the review of the underlying science.

Similarly, in testimony before the Science Committee last year, witnesses indicated that all 22 members of an SAB panel asked to review EPA’s hydraulic fracturing research, “had no experience in hydraulic fracturing and no understanding of current industry practices.” 

According to the Congressional Research Service, almost 60 percent of the members of EPA’s chartered Science Advisory Board (SAB) and the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee have directly received grants from the Agency since 2000.  These advisors served as principal or co-investigators for EPA grants totaling roughly $140 million dollars. 

Chairman Stewart: “If the EPA scientific process is viewed as being biased, or less than willing to consider every point of view, their credibility suffers. This serves neither the EPA, American businesses nor American citizens.  Independent, balanced, and transparent review of EPA science offers a critical check for an Agency that frequently views the world through its regulatory lenses.”

Witnesses today provided testimony on draft legislation to strengthen public participation, improve the process for selecting expert advisors, expand transparency requirements, and limit non-scientific policy advice among advisory bodies. The draft bill would reform the SAB and its sub-panels by expanding transparency requirements, improving the process for selecting expert advisors, strengthening public participation, and limiting non-scientific policy advice. 

The following witnesses testified:
Dr. Michael Honeycutt, Chief Toxicologist, Texas Commission on Environmental Quality
Dr. Roger McClellan, Advisor, Toxicology and Human Health Risk Analysis
Dr. Francesca Grifo, Senior Scientist and Science Policy Fellow, Union of Concerned Scientists