Scientific Advisory Board needs more independent scientists


By Ryan Najjar, Contributing Columnist

The House of Representatives passed a Republican Party-backed bill that allows the appointment of industry-affiliated experts to the Science Advisory Board of the Environmental Protection Agency on Nov. 19. The individual sponsor, Rep. Chris Stewart said, “All we’re asking is that there be some balance to those experts … We’re losing valuable insight and valuable guidance because we don’t include them in the process.” Stewart is aiming to balance the independent scientists currently sitting on the Scientific Advisory Board with those affiliated with the industry. At first, this comes off as a well-meaning and noble pursuit for fairness and new perspectives in the EPA. When certain aspects are taken into consideration, however, it can be seen that this is being done for more than fairness and accuracy.

If more experts with direct ties to energy industries are appointed to the SAB, those with financial stakes in the industry would have influence on the decisions the EPA makes. Policies may be made with financial rather than scientific motives and the conflict of interest would be likely to prevent costly and time-consuming environmental protections. Rep. Ernie Bernice Johnson, a Democrat from Texas, states: “H.R. 4012, the Secret Science Act of 2014, is an insidious attack on the EPA’s ability to use the best science to protect the health of Americans and the environment. Republicans will claim that H.R. 4012 increases EPA’s transparency, but in reality it is an attempt to prevent EPA from using the best science to protect public health and the environment.”

The energy industry is one of the most lucrative in the world. Giving industry-affiliated and financially-influenced experts a larger influence in recommendations to the EPA is a decision that gives industry priority over the health of the American people and environmental safety. While this bill has not been introduced to the Senate yet, Republican senators, along with the Democrats from oil- and coal-producing states, are likely to approve it and pass it to President Barack Obama for judgment.

While the people cannot predict the decisions that the industry-influenced SAB will recommend, it is very likely that they would be influenced by the wealth of the oil, coal and other energy industries. This might lead to inadequate data, making sure that no costly regulations are needed to make the facilities of the energy companies environmentally safe. The Senate needs to realize that the health of the American public is more important than these businesses. A thriving energy industry is useless when the earth and people that support it suffer in its name.

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