The U.S. House of Representatives could vote as early as this week to approve two controversial, Republican-backed bills that would change how the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) uses science and scientific advice to inform its policies. Many Democrats, scientific organizations, and environmental groups are pushing back, calling the bills thinly veiled attempts to weaken future regulations and favor industry. White House advisers today announced that they will recommend that President Barack Obama veto the bills if they reach his desk in their current form (statements here and here).
The bills, introduced by a mostly Republican cast of sponsors in both the House and the Senate, would require that EPA use only publicly available, reproducible data in writing regulations and seek to remake the membership and procedures of the agency’s science advisory panels. Supporters, including industry groups such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, argue that the legislation would improve the transparency and soundness of how EPA uses science, making regulations less costly and more effective.
Opponents, however, are calling the bills wolves in sheep’s clothing. “I cannot support legislation that makes it easier for industry to implement their destructive playbook, because risking the health of the American people is not a game that I’m willing to play,” said Representative Paul Tonko (D–NY) at a 25 February committee meeting on the bills.
Versions of both bills had been introduced in previous Congresses, and their revival was widely expected as part of Republicans’ continuing efforts to block key parts of Obama’s environmental agenda.