House Committee Debates a More Open Scientific Process for EPA & Revision to EPA's Scientific Advisory Board

By Jason Hayes, Mackinac Center for Public Policy.

On March 6, members of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committeeintroduced the Honest and Open New EPA Science Treatment Act of 2017 (HONEST Act). At the same time, Reps. Frank Lucas, R-OK, and Lamar Smith, R-TX, proposed legislation to reform the Environmental Protection Agency’s Science Advisory Board.

Rep. Smith explained why the HONEST Act was introduced. “An open and honest scientific process is long overdue at EPA. American taxpayers have often had to foot the bill for regulations and rules based on hidden science that has not been available for review by the public. … This bill would prohibit any future regulations from taking effect unless the underlying scientific data is public.”

He also defended the Science Advisory Board Reform Act of 2017. “The SAB at EPA,” he said, “has the opportunity to include a more balanced group of scientists to assist EPA in fulfilling its core mission.” He added, “This bill would ensure that scientists advising EPA on regulatory decisions are not the same scientists receiving EPA grants.”

The Office of Science Advisor within the EPA says, “Science is the backbone of EPA's decision-making. The Agency's ability to pursue its mission to protect human health and the environment depends upon the integrity of the science on which it relies.”

The OSA continues by describing the importance of scientific integrity, using words like objectivity, clarity, and reproducibility. It also notes that scientific integrity “helps to build public support” as “people are more likely to support the Agency if they can trust the quality and integrity of the work.”