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Kansas House Delegation Supports EPA Restrictions

       

Three measures seeking to rein in the Environmental Protection Agency passed the U.S. House of Representatives last week along largely partisan lines, with all of the Republicans in the Missouri and Kansas delegations voting in favor of the bills and the two Missouri Democrats voting against them.

The most controversial of the three measures is called the Secret Science Reform Act. Backers say it would prohibit the EPA from relying on data that isn’t publicly available in making rules and regulations. They contend it’s about transparency. Opponents say the real goal is to tie the EPA’s hands.

Dozens of prominent scientific organizations testified against the bill, saying much of the research EPA uses includes patient information, which by law is confidential. Written testimony included a joint statement by Harold Wimmer, the president and CEO of the American Lung Association, and Stephen C. Crane, the executive director of the American Thoracic Society.

“The legislation before the Congress will compel the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to either ignore the best science by prohibiting the agency from considering peer-reviewed research that is based on confidential patient information or force EPA to publicly release confidential patient information, which would violate federal law,” Wimmer and Crane said in their statement.

“This is an untenable outcome that would completely undermine the ability of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to perform its responsibilities under the Clean Air Act and myriad other federal laws. The legislation will not improve EPA’s actions, rather it will stifle public health protections.”

The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office says the bill would likely force the EPA to cut in half the number of scientific studies it uses, and would add up to $1.5 billion dollars in administrative costs.

Another measure, called the EPA Science Advisory Board Reform Act of 2014, would change the make-up of the panel that advises the EPA administrator on matters including the relevance and quality of scientific and technical information used in regulatory decisions. One part of the measure reads, “Board members may not participate in advisory activities that directly or indirectly involve review or evaluation of their own work.”

In a Roll Call editorial last week, Andrew Rosenberg, director of the Union of Concerned Scientists, said that clause means that “academic scientists who know the most about a subject can’t weigh in, but experts paid by corporations who want to block regulations can.”

The bill would also make it easier for industry experts to serve on the advisory panel, while making it more difficult for scientists who have applied for EPA grants in the past to be appointed.

The measure requires board members to disclose potential conflicts of interest and bars them from weighing in on matters affecting any specific party they have an interest in.

The third bill, called the Promoting New Manufacturing Act, would require the EPA to publicly report the number of preconstruction permits it issues for construction or modification of businesses such as power plants that emit large amounts of air pollution. Among other provisions, it would also require the EPA to report on actions to speed up the review of these permits.

The four members of the Kansas delegation -- Tim Huelskamp, Lynn Jenkins, Mike Pompeo and Kevin Yoder – voted in favor of all three measures. All four are Republicans. The six Republican members of the Missouri delegation – Ann Wagner, Blaine Luetkemeyer, Vicky Hartzler, Sam Graves, Billy Long and Jason Smith – likewise voted in favor of the bills. The two Missouri Democrats – Lacy Clay and Emanuel Cleaver – opposed them.

The White House has threatened to veto all three if they make it through the Senate.

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