House passes bill to overhaul EPA Scientific Advisory Board

The House passed legislation on Tuesday to modify the selection process for members of the Environmental Protection Agency's Scientific Advisory Board.

Passage fell largely along party lines by a vote of 236-181.

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The bill would prohibit the board, which advises the EPA on its regulations, from appointing members who are registered lobbyists. It would also require that at least 10 percent of board members be from state, local or tribal governments.

Republicans argued that the bill would increase transparency at the EPA.

"We live in an extremely cynical time," said Rep. Frank Lucas (R-Okla.), the measure's sponsor. "This is a bill that tries to move us in the direction of not only better regulations when we must have regulations, but better science to justify those regulations and the confidence of all of our fellow citizens."

But Democrats said the legislation would create unnecessary burdens and limit the number of environmental experts serving on the board by establishing a quota for people representing regional governments. 

"Instead of improving the Science Advisory Board's structure or operation, the bill will limit the quality of scientific advice that the EPA receives and allow seemingly endless delays in EPA's regulatory process," said Rep. Suzanne BonamiciSuzanne Bonamici'Will on the Hill' pokes fun at 2016 election Overnight Energy: Greens take aim at trade deals Rep. Ellison challenges Ryan to bring Muslim guest to SOTU MORE (D-Ore.). 

Under the bill, nominees for serving on the Scientific Advisory Board would be forced to disclose financial relationships such as contracts and grants from the EPA.

The House adopted, 242-175, an amendment offered by Rep. David McKinleyDavid McKinleyEthics panel scolds GOP lawmaker over namesake firm Lawmakers press concerns over fuel efficiency rules Senate panel approves pension rescue for coal miners MORE (R-W.Va.) that would completely prohibit people from becoming members of the board if they currently receive EPA grants or contracts. Members of the board would be banned from applying for EPA contracts or grants for three years upon completion of their service. 

The White House issued a veto threat against the legislation, saying it would "negatively affect the appointment of experts and would weaken the scientific independence and integrity" of the board.

The House passed a similar bill last year by a vote of 229-191.