On 20 March 2013, the House Science Subcommittee on Environment held a hearing to evaluate whether there is bias in the scientific advice provided by advisory committees to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Some Representatives raised questions about the range of views reflected and scientists’ potential lack of objectivity due to receiving funding from the agency.
According to subcommittee Chairman Chris Stewart (R-UT), researchers who serve on EPA science advisory panels are not always qualified to serve. Members of a panel that reviewed hydraulic fracturing “had no experience in hydraulic fracturing and no understanding of current industry practices.”
Chairman Stewart plans to pursue legislation that would reform EPA’s Science Advisory Board (SAB) to include greater public comment and increase peer-review requirements. Rep. Ralph Hall (R-TX) introduced similar legislation last year.
“EPA routinely touts the work of its ‘independent science advisers’ in promoting and defending its controversial regulatory agenda,” Stewart said. “The record is clear: The SAB is ripe for improvement.”
Ranking Member Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) agreed that improvement is possible, but that the draft bill would limit EPA’s access to science. “I noted provisions [of the draft legislation] that will not improve the Science Advisory Board structure or operation, but that instead would likely limit the quality of scientific advice the EPA receives,” said Bonamici. “These provisions appear to tie the EPA’s hands by denying the agency access to a vast pool of our country’s most expert scientists and researchers in environmental science and health.”
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