In recent years some might find themselves in a minority as an American (specifically in a college community) supporting the federal government. A new bill was passed recently by our U.S. House of Representatives stating we should no longer use any ol’ scientist to tell the Environmental Protection Agency what is or isn’t safe. Instead, legislators feel it would be better for everyone if companies or industries referred their choice of scientists to advise the EPA on what would be the safest route regarding the environment and chemicals, etc.
This new legislation, now passed it’s first federal checkpoint, has been under consideration since 2013 and would prevent scientists from voting on advisory panels regarding the safety of any chemical on which they are working. Okay, that doesn’t sound like such a bad thing, right? But what it means is that research scientists would be barred from advising on any topic that might “directly or indirectly involve review and evaluation of their own work.”
So the only people who wouldn’t be allowed to advise the EPA on a particular chemical (if the bill becomes a law) are those who have actually studied its toxicity or effect on the environment and understand its effects.
That sounds rational, right? Those who understand an issue best not being allowed to decide whether it is or isn’t safe?
The bill is part of a package of legislation by the House GOP in order to limit the EPA’s ability to issue new regulations. Their argument centers around EPA transparency and some stipulations of the package include making more of their research public record (including documents that may conflict with patient confidentiality) and reducing the EPA’s ability to update air pollution acts. Because we wouldn’t want them to keep changing those rules every time they got more information on the environment and our effect on it! It’s so annoying to prevent air pollution and create a safer world for our children.
However, according to Cristina Marcos of The Hill, “the White House issued a veto threat on Monday [Nov. 17] against the bill, saying it would ‘negatively affect the appointment of experts and would weaken the scientific independence and integrity of the SAB.'”
Good looking out, White House. Maybe next time the House of Representatives will hear “a bill designed to prevent qualified, independent scientists from advising the EPA” and also jump to “hey, this is a really stupid idea.”