The US House Thinks Polluting Companies Need More Influence on EPA

February 26th 2015

Alicia Lutes

Don't believe everything you read or hear — particularly when it comes to bills in Congress. Like Rep. Chris Stewart's latest, which was passed yesterday by the House of Representatives. It purports to codify increased "transparency and understanding" at the Environmental Protection Agency. Only...if you get down to the brass tacks of it all, it's easy to see the bill does exactly the opposite of that while simultaneously discrediting unbiased, academic science in the process.

The bill — H.R. 1422 — co-sponsored by 21 other House Republicans (with nary a Democrat in sight) claims that industry experts are not given as much credence as independent academics or those working alongside environmental advocacy groups. This, by and large, is standard operating ethical practice, given that it is far too easy for so-called "industry experts" to manipulate data into benefiting their industry backers, who pay them. Besides, leading scientists, several environmental advocacy groups, and many health experts have banded together to write open letters about the dangers of the bill's plans.

That isn't to say there aren't industry experts already on-hand as advisors to the EPA — three out of the 51 total on the board that are considered to have this sort of expertise. But to give equal footing to those whose ethical stringency can be so easily questioned (Like Dr. Wei-Hock Soon, for example) would essentially give industry-funded scientists as much influence as independent, academic scientists on the creation and implementation of EPA rules and regulations.

"The supposed intent [of the bill] is to improve the process of selecting advisors, but in reality, the bill would allow the board to be stacked with industry representatives, while making it more difficult for academics to serve," said Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) on the House floor on Tuesday. "It benefits no one but the industry, and it harms public health."

Further, Rep. Stewart's ulterior motives are fairly easy to point out.  He has already gone on record that he doubts climate change is man-made, and has also expressed a desire to put an end to the EPA altogether. In an interview with local Utah paper The St. George News, "Stewart said the Environmental Protection Agency was a federal agency he would like to see dissolved. 'The EPA thwarts energy development,' he said."

So let's be real: does it really sound like Stewart wants to make the EPA better, particularly if he fundamentally disagrees with the beliefs and function of the agency his bill will regulate?