4 The record articles

Reforming U.S. EPA’s Science Advisory Process

Posted: October 8th, 2012

Author: All4 Staff 

Science is usually just one component of environmental regulatory decision-making, but the quality and interpretation of that science often becomes the central subject of debate when regulated entities and non-government organizations (NGOs) raise objections over new and amended regulations.

There has long been criticism of U.S. EPA’s science advisory process.  Most recently, that criticism has included the following from a variety of stakeholders:

  • Advisory committees and subcommittees seem to exclude private sector scientists who are currently employed by industry, or have been in the past.
  • Public participation in advisory committee activities is limited, giving other interested parties almost no opportunity to raise concerns and comment on the scientific issues and literature being considered.
  • While advisory committees are supposed to limit their advice to only scientific and technical issues, at times some members will also state their policy opinions on the matters at hand.
  • In some cases, advisory committee members are actually reviewing their own research.
  • According to the Congressional Research Service, some advisory panel members, or their affiliated research organizations, receive National Center for Environmental Research grants from U.S. EPA, and the research that the advisory panel members are asked to independently review is sometimes related to those grants they received.

Established by Congress in 1978, U.S. EPA’s Science Advisory Board (SAB) is charged with reviewing scientific information and advising U.S. EPA on science and technology-related matters that become the basis for regulatory decisions.  Now four members of the U.S. House Committee on Science, Space and Technology are acting to address concerns about the science advisory process.  Committee Chairman Ralph Hall (R-TX) and Committee Members Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD), and Rep. Dan Benishek (R-MI) have introduced legislation to reform the SAB and its sub-panels.  H.R. 6564, the EPA Science Advisory Board Reform Act of 2012, seeks to strengthen public participation, reform the process for selecting expert advisors, provide increased and consistent transparency and limit non-scientific policy advice from the SAB.  More information and a copy of the bill can be found on the Congressional Committee’s website here.

Each year U.S. EPA solicits public nominations for new SAB members by publishing a notice in the Federal Register.  So if you have aspired to serve on the SAB but were discouraged because you share in those criticisms of the process, cheer up!  There is new hope.  Keep an eye on H.R. 6564.  And if you subscribe to ALL4’s EnviroReview™ Regulatory Consulting Service, we’ll make sure you don’t miss those nomination notices when they appear in the Federal Register.


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