Another attack on the EPA and public health

Over the past few years, the Republican party has engaged in an unrelenting partisan attack on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). They have harassed the administrator, attempted to delay every new regulation, questioned the integrity of academic and EPA scientists, and sided with industrial polluters over the American people. Later this week, the Republican Majority in the House will continue this assault by considering H.R. 4012 and H.R. 1422.

H.R. 4012, the Secret Science Act of 2014, is an insidious attack on the EPA’s ability to use the best science to protect the health of Americans and the environment. Republicans will claim that H.R. 4012 increases EPA’s transparency, but in reality it is an attempt to prevent EPA from using the best science to protect public health and the environment. This bill would prohibit EPA from relying on scientific studies that involve personal health information or other data that is legally protected from public disclosure.

{mosads}Any effort to limit the scope of science that can be considered by EPA does not strengthen scientific integrity, but instead undermines it. It would also increase the likelihood of litigation because EPA’s actions would be based on inadequate and incomplete science, leaving any regulation open to legal challenges which would delay the implementation of important public health protections. The true intent of H.R. 4012 is to delay EPA action because that is what industrial polluters want. H.R. 4012 is not only bad for public health, but it is also bad for the taxpayer. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that the bill as reported would cost American taxpayers as much as $1 billion dollars over four years.

H.R. 1422, the EPA Science Advisory Board Reform Act of 2013, paves the way for industry to have a greater influence over EPA by distorting the process for selecting members of the Science Advisory Board (SAB) in favor of industry-affiliated “experts.” It actually prohibits scientists who have relevant subject matter expertise from providing their expert advice to the EPA, increasing the likelihood that industry experts—those with obvious financial conflicts of interest—will be able to skew the recommendations of the Board. The bill also favors industry by creating unnecessary procedural hurdles that will delay EPA actions to protect the health and safety of every American.  

These bills are the culmination of one of the most anti-science and anti-health campaigns I’ve witnessed in my 22 years as a member of Congress. As someone who worked in public health before I entered politics, I can think of no mission of the federal government that is more important or noble than EPA’s mission to “protect human health and the environment.”  I am hopeful that Congress can get past this misguided and disingenuous war on the dedicated scientists and public servants of the EPA, and that we can come together to advance our economy and to support a cleaner environment and healthier public.

Johnson has represented Texas’s 30th Congressional District since 1993. She is ranking member on the Science, Space and Technology Committee. She also sits on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.


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