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Michael Bastasch

House lawmakers introduced legislation to block the EPA from appointing science advisers who are currently taking money from the agency.

The bill stipulates EPA advisers “shall have no current grants or contracts from the [EPA] and shall not apply for a grant or contract for 3 years following the end of that member’s service on the Board.”

“This bill would ensure that scientists advising EPA on regulatory decisions are not the same scientists receiving EPA grants,” said Texas Republican Rep. Lamar Smith, chairman of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology.

Smith also introduced a bill to prevent EPA from using “secret science” to develop major regulations. Republicans argue EPA and other agencies shouldn’t be able to base regulations on non-public scientific data.

EPA and environmentalists traditionally argued such science should be kept non-public to protect confidential patient data — though it’s not clear why that can’t be redacted.

“Suffice it to say it will not make the EPA great again; it will gut the EPA at the expense of public health and safety,” Andrew Rosenberg, with the Union of Concerned Scientists, told InsideClimate News in February when Smith scheduled a hearing on EPA “secret science.”

Scientists sitting on EPA advisory panels are charged with evaluating the research used to justify regulations, but Republicans have increasingly called into question the true “independence” of advisers benefiting from federal funding.

The Energy & Environment Legal Institute sued EPA last summer to prevent its Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee from meeting based on data showing 24 of the 26 members of a clean air advisory panel had gotten, or are the current recipients of, EPA grants.

In total, panel members received more than $190 million from EPA, according EELI attorney Steve Milloy.

Milloy also found 17 of the 20 scientific advisers sitting on EPA’s ozone panel received a total of $192 million in EPA grants over the years.

Smith has long been a critic of EPA’s scientific process, which he says doesn’t have proper checks against bias. Smith noted in 2014 that EPA science panel advisers often reviewed regulation based on their own research without disclosing this to the public.

Smith’s bill prevents EPA advisers from reviewing rules based on their own research unless they publicly disclose this and their research has already been peer-reviewed.

“As both of these bills move forward, our committee is working hard to preserve EPA’s scientific integrity and to help strengthen EPA’s internal review process,” Smith said.

Oklahoma Republican Sen. Jim Inhofe has also called into question how EPA chooses its scientific advisers.

“I have observed EPA, under the Obama Administration, cherry-picking the same allies to serve on this advisory committee and its subcommittees at the expense of having an open and robust process for selecting external advisers,” Inhofe wrote in a letter sent to the EPA in February 2016.

“The majority of CASAC members have also received considerable financial support from EPA, which calls into question their independence and therefore the integrity of the overall panel,” Inhofe wrote.

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