House Republicans Just Banned Scientists From Advising The EPA, Replaced Them With Corporate Lobbyists

While the U.S. Senate spent Tuesday debating, and ultimately failing to pass, the bill allowing the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, a noxious attack on science was taking place in the House.

Framed as a play for transparency, H.R. 1422, which passed 229-191, would transform the Scientific Advisory Board of the Environmental Protection Agency, effectively gagging scientists, while handing power to people with direct financial interests in the industries regulated by the EPA.  Science: out, Vested Interests: in.
The bill even goes so far as to forbid scientific experts from participating in “advisory activities” that either directly or indirectly involve their own work. This means that world-leading experts are banned from sharing their expertise in their own research.   While the GOP are big fans of ‘industry experts’ a.k.a lobbyists playing a role in such activities (from which they have a direct financial stake in the result), they argue that having conducted peer-reviewed studies on a topic would constitute a conflict of interest.
“In other words,” wrote Union of Concerned Scientists director Andrew A. Rosenberg in an editorial for RollCall, “academic scientists who know the most about a subject can’t weigh in, but experts paid by corporations who want to block regulations can.”

So how are the GOP selling such a blatantly absurd policy?

Rep. Michael Burgess (R-Texas) sums up the flawed logic of the Republicans, arguing that the board’s current structure:

“excludes industry experts, but not officials for environmental advocacy groups.” The inclusion of industry experts, he said, would right this injustice.

Democratic Rep. Jim McGovern of Massachussets didn’t beat about the bush with his summary of the Republican position:

“I get it, you don’t like science,” he told bill sponsor Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah. “And you don’t like science that interferes with the interests of your corporate clients. But we need science to protect public health and the environment.”

But the fight was lost, the bill passed, and two other bills aimed at impeding the EPA are scheduled to slide through this week.  One prevents the agency from relying on what it calls “secret science” in crafting its regulations — translation: a means to effectively block the EPA from adopting any new rules to protect public health.

Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas), in an editorial for The Hill, stated that this trifecta of idiocy represents:

“the culmination of one of the most anti-science and anti-health campaigns I’ve witnessed in my 22 years as a member of Congress.”

The White House has threatened to veto all three.

The role of independent scientific assessment of the impacts of these industries is the only way the EPA is of any value of credibility.  Take that away, and you turn the EPA into a Trade Show where industry lackeys hard-sell the public and politicians with zero scrutiny.  When it comes to the biggest questions about our environment – water, energy, construction – we need people we can trust are evaluating the impacts on public health, safety and environmental sustainability.  The GOP shows once again demonstrate who they exist to serve – and it’s not America.