Climate Science: Assumptions, Policy Implications, and the Scientific Method

On March 29, the House Science Committee convened a hearing titled, “Climate Science: Assumptions, Policy Implications, and the Scientific Method.”

The scientific method has become a central issue in the committee’s work this year. The House has passed two bills to overhaul how the Environmental Protection Agency uses and reviews science. Proponents say the legislation would increase public trust and stakeholder participation in EPA’s decisions, but critics assert the bills would prevent the agency from using the best available science and academic expertise.

Honest and Open New EPA Science Treatment Act of 2017 or the HONEST Act

(Sec. 2) This bill amends the Environmental Research, Development, and Demonstration Authorization Act of 1978 to prohibit the Environmental Protection Agency from proposing, finalizing, or disseminating a covered action unless all scientific and technical information relied on to support such action is the best available science, specifically identified, and publicly available in a manner sufficient for independent analysis and substantial reproduction of research results. A covered action includes a risk, exposure, or hazard assessment, criteria document, standard, limitation, regulation, regulatory impact analysis, or guidance. Personally identifiable information, trade secrets, or commercial or financial information obtained from a person and privileged or confidential must be redacted prior to public availability.

EPA Science Advisory Board Reform Act of 2017

This bill amends the Environmental Research, Development, and Demonstration Authorization Act of 1978 to revise the process of selecting members of the Science Advisory Board, guidelines for participation in board advisory activities, and terms of office. The board provides scientific advice to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). This bill requires the board to independently provide that advice. Registered lobbyists may not be appointed to the board. Board members may not have current grants or contracts from the EPA and may not apply for them for three years following the end of their board term.

The EPA must provide draft risk or hazard assessments in its regulatory proposals and documents to the board. The board’s advice and comments must be included in the record regarding those proposals and published in the Federal Register.

The board’s member committees and investigative panels must operate in accordance with the membership, participation, and policy requirements contained in this bill, including new requirements for public participation in advisory activities of the board.

The board must: (1) strive to avoid making policy determinations or recommendations, (2) communicate uncertainties, (3) encourage dissenting members to make their views known, (4) conduct periodic reviews to ensure that its activities address the most important scientific issues affecting the EPA, and (5) respond to Congress fully and in a timely manner.

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