GOP looking to keep the EPA (at least slightly more) honest

File this under the “Wouldn’t it be nice?” category.

I don’t know that the Environmental Protection Agency has ever met an idea for a new freedom-crushing rule or regulation it didn’t like, and the general frame of mind of the agency’s many eco-crusaders seems to be that no number of jobs or business endeavors is above an EPA-shakedown, no matter how marginal the ostensible benefit to society. In the magnanimous issuance of these supposedly environmentally-friendly dictates, the EPA generally ‘informs’ its decisions based upon the ‘independent’ research of its Science Advisory Board; or, in other words: We’re the EPA, and we do what we want.

Some of those “do-nothing,” don’t-care-about-jobs Republicans from the House, however, introduced a bill last week that would require the EPA to reform the SAB in an attempt to bring about more transparency, limit conflicts of interest, and compel the oh-so-august body to publish a wider range of scientific opinion when writing their regulations. Via The Hill:

Republicans said reform of the Board is needed because of complaints that a majority of people serving on its advisory panels have received environmental research grants in the last decade from the EPA. The GOP also argues that the Board’s scientific advisory panels often exclude the private sector, and that more public participation and input into panel decisions is needed.

“The need for high-quality, independent scientific advice from the Science Advisory Board has never been more important, as President Obama’s EPA pursues sweeping new regulations based on controversial scientific assertions and conclusions,” said House Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chairman Ralph Hall (R-Texas), the lead sponsor of the bill. “This bill contains basic, common-sense reforms to deal with legitimate concerns about balance, impartiality, independence, and public participation.”

And from the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology:

Criticisms of the current advisory process include:

  • According to the Congressional Research Service, almost 60 percent of the members of EPA’s standing scientific advisory panels directly received National Center for Environmental Research grants from the Agency since 2000.  These advisors served as investigators for grants representing hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars. And the research they are being asked to independently review is often directly related to the grants they received.
  • Private sector expertise is often entirely excluded on panels, despite an existing statutory requirement that membership “be fairly balanced in terms of the points of view represented.”
  • Many panel members state strong policy preferences in areas they are being asked to provide impartial scientific reviews, and in certain cases advisors review EPA products based on their own work.
  • Public participation is limited during most SAB meetings, and virtually no ability exists for interested parties to comment on the scope of SAB reviews.

If the science is really so very settled, I just can’t imagine how The Most Transparent Administration Evah could possibly object to considering reforms aimed at addressing some of these concernscan you?

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