Drastic Reforms to EPA Science Advisory Board
Author: Benjamin Limpich, Senior Legislative Analyst
Updated: October 27th, 2015 
          In 1978, Jimmy Carter signed legislation that added a scientific advisory board to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The Science Advisory Board (SAB) was designed to be an independent entity that could review the scientific merit of EPA reports while also advising the head of the EPA — and the agency as a whole — on topics concerning science. So for example, when chemists Mario Molina and Frank Rowland discovered that the funky-fresh people of the 80’s were using hairsprays that ripped not-so-funky-fresh holes in the ozone layer, SAB was at the ready to advise the EPA about how best to tackle the issue. This led to the EPA deciding in 1987 to ban chlorofluorocarbons, which was a chemical in hairsprays and other products that were partially to blame for ozone destruction.
          HR 1029, which has already passed the house, seeks to drastically alter the inner cogs of SAB. The bill institutes term limits, creates new requirements for board membership, blocks registered lobbyists from being appointed as members, significantly increases the transparency of both the board’s activities and its nomination process, and even mandates that the board write responses to public comments. In this sense, HR 1029 is doing some much needed housework by cleaning up dusty policies. However, the devil is the details. Under HR 1029 SAB must strive to be apolitical, and in the cases where it can’t be, SAB must clarify that the content of their advice is strictly “scientific determination” or “policy advice”. This should ensure that the body remains objective, but it also defeats one of the reasons the board was made: to advise the EPA on policy decisions.
          One of the main arguments against the bill is that it puts too much bureaucratic red tape on the EPA. The Board would be required to publicize all scientific information that they use, which creates a legal debacle about releasing potentially confidential scientific literature. With lawsuits inbound, public comments in need of being responded to, and various new rules of operation with no new budget increase in sight, it seems inevitable that the bill will clog up the EPA to some extent. Americans could potentially have a more transparent and objective EPA, but it also means that we may end up with a less effective EPA. With this information in hand, contact your state senators to let them what you think about reforming the Science Advisory Board of the EPA.
Click here for the full details of this bill
(H.R. 1029: EPA Science Advisory Board Reform Act of 2015)