Rounds Opening Statement at Oversight Hearing of Scientific Advisory Panels and Processes at the Environmental Protection Agency and Legislative Hearing on S. 543, the Science Advisory Board Reform Act of 2015
WASHINGTON—U.S. Senator Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), chairman of the Environment and Public Works (EPW) Subcommittee on Superfund, Waste Management, and Regulatory Oversight, provided the following opening statement at today’s hearing, entitled “Oversight Hearing on Scientific Advisory Panels and Processes at the Environmental Protection Agency and Legislative Hearing on S. 543, the Science Advisory Board Reform Act of 2015.”
Witnesses include Dr. Roger O. McClellan, Advisor, Toxicology and Human Health Risk Analysis; Ted Hadzi-Antich, Senior Staff Attorney, Pacific Legal Foundation; Alfredo Gomez, Director, Natural Resources and Environment Team, U.S. Government Accountability Office; Dr. Terry Yosie, President & CEO, World Environment Center; Scott Faber, Vice President of Government Affairs, Environmental Working Group.
Opening Statement as Prepared for Delivery:
“The Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Superfund, Waste Management, and Regulatory Oversight is meeting today to conduct an ‘Oversight Hearing on Scientific Advisory Panels and Processes at the Environmental Protection Agency and Legislative Hearing on S. 543, the Science Advisory Board Reform Act of 2015.’
The Environmental Protection Agency is tasked with developing environmental regulations that impact every American in every state across the country.
These regulations affect the water we drink, the air we breathe and the land we use. EPA has affirmed science is to be “the backbone of EPA decision making.”
The Science Advisory Board and Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee, which are made up of scientific experts, are to supply the EPA with independent scientific and technical advice on a wide-range of topics, from hydraulic fracturing, to ozone emissions, to stream and wetland connectivity.
The EPA is to rely on this advice to assist them in crafting and issuing appropriate environmental regulations.
Unfortunately in recent years, EPA regulations have been driven not by science but by politics.
The EPA has not submitted critical Agency science or technical information to the SABs for review prior to implementing major regulations such as greenhouse gas rules for cars and trucks, new source performance standards for coal-fired power plants, and ozone regulations, despite statutory authority to do so.
Rather than allowing the science to drive the regulations, the EPA is carrying out the Administration’s political agenda through regulations with questionable science supporting them.
For example, at an EPW Subcommittee hearing yesterday we heard testimony that the EPA focused on the wrong issues when requesting the SAB review an EPA – led study that became a scientific foundation for the overly burdensome Waters of the U.S. Rule that is due out in the near future.
EPA, to achieve its goal of expanding jurisdiction, made the science fit into their preplanned agenda and the result will be a tremendous example of federal overreach.
In addition, due to not using proper science to begin with, as reported yesterday by the New York Times, the EPA engaged in its own lobbying campaign, under a questionable legal basis, to garner support for this rule.
Despite the fact that the SAB is to be an independent body that provides independent advice to the EPA, many SAB members are receiving EPA grants, which not only lends itself to conflict of interest issues, but also ties the hands of SAB members who may not be inclined to provide dissenting views or disagree with agency science.
When members do disagree with EPA science, there is little opportunity for members to express dissenting views.
We have also seen many instances in which members of these boards are reviewing their own scientific work without recusing themselves.
This diminishes any possibility that these boards will offer a truly impartial opinion regarding the validity of the science EPA is relying on.
For example, a recent CASAC review showed that 21 of 25 panelists had their own work cited by the EPA and meeting minutes did not note a single recusal.
Further, there is little opportunity for public participation or comments in these scientific reviews and there is minimal state, local and tribal representation on these boards.
The 47 member chartered SAB includes only three members from two states – California and Vermont.
Additionally, the panels tasked with advising the EPA on hydraulic fracturing and water body connectivity did not include representatives from any states.
As a result of these reviews, the EPA implements regulations that affect the entire country, yet there is minimal state participation on these boards and when there is, the vast majority of the country remains unrepresented.
- 543, the Science Advisory Board Reform Act of 2015, aims to address these problems by inserting more transparency and accountability in the SAB process.
If passed, it will allow for more public participation in the SAB review process, more accountability for the members of the board, and provide for more transparency for Congress and the public regarding the science behind EPA regulations.
The EPA should rely on the most up-to-date and sound science as the foundation for every regulation implemented by the agency.
It is vital that this scientific review process be done in a transparent manner, undertaken by experts who can provide an impartial and independent opinion, and with sufficient representation by those who would be affected by these regulations.
I’d like to thank our witnesses for taking the time to be with us today and I look forward to hearing your testimony.”