The Committee on Science, Space, and Technology today approved two important bills that improve the science behind regulatory decision-making at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
H.R. 875, introduced by Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), requires the EPA to coordinate with the National Academy of Sciences to comprehensively assess scientific and technical research on gasoline blends with 15 percent ethanol, commonly referred to as E15, before such fuels may be approved for consumer use. A diverse group of 37 organizations ranging from the Environmental Working Group to the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers to the Milk Producers Council signed a letter in support of H.R. 875, urging further study of E15 before EPA permits its use.
Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas): "Time and again, we see instances where American businesses are unnecessarily harmed by the EPA's regulatory and political agenda. Mr. Sensenbrenner's E15 bill is backed by both the American Petroleum Institute and the Environmental Working Group, two organizations that do not agree often. It is also supported by the American Automobile Association (AAA), as well as groups representing everyone from snowmobilers to boaters to motorcyclists. Mr. Stewart's legislation has garnered support from the American Farm Bureau and the American Chemistry Council.
"Both of these bills improve the science that goes into EPA's regulations. This is why they have received such broad support among diverse stakeholders. The bill also makes sure that EPA regulations are reviewed in a balanced and transparent manner."
The Committee adopted three Democratic amendments and approved H.R. 875 by a vote of 18-17.
Rep. Sensenbrenner: "After examining the basis for the EPA to grant its waiver decisions in 2010 and 2011 to allow the introduction of E15 fuel, it is clear to me that this decision was wrong, rushed and based on incomplete science. Numerous tests and warnings highlight the harmful effects of E15 fuel blends on engines and their components, but they have all been dismissed by the EPA. Therefore, we must force the EPA to stop the use of E15 fuel as we cannot responsibly allow the approval of mid-level ethanol blends until the serious safety, fuel efficiency, engine damage and environmental concerns are addressed."
The Committee also approved H.R.1422, the EPA Science Advisory Board Reform Act of 2013, introduced by Environment Subcommittee Chairman Chris Stewart (R-Utah). The bill makes changes to the EPA's Science Advisory Board (SAB) to enhance public participation, improve the process for selecting expert advisors, expand transparency requirements and limit non-scientific policy advice.
Environment Subcommittee Chairman Stewart: "The bill before us, the EPA Science Advisory Board Reform Act, would help address a variety of concerns with the SAB and its sub-panels by expanding transparency requirements, improving the process for selecting expert advisors, strengthening public participation, and limiting non-scientific policy advice.
"The bill contains basic, good government changes and draws upon non-controversial provisions of the Federal Advisory Committee Act, the EPA's own Peer Review Handbook, the National Academies' committee composition and conflict-of-interest policy, and recommendations from Science Committee testimony and other outside groups."
To address current deficiencies in EPA's scientific advisory process, H.R. 1422:
-Strengthens public participation and public comment opportunities.
-Improves the make-up of SAB and its sub-panels by reinforcing peer review requirements regarding balance and independence. The bill also reduces potential conflicts of interest by requiring enhanced disclosure of members' financial relationships relevant to board activities.
Requires opportunities for dissenting panelists to make their views known.
-Requires communication of uncertainties in scientific findings and conclusions.
-Limits non-scientific policy advice and recommendations, while requiring explicit disclosure of such advice when SAB feels compelled to provide it.
A group of 29 different organizations expressed support for H.R. 1422. The Committee adopted six Democratic amendments and approved the bill by a vote of 21-16.