Mr. Chairman, thank you for holding this hearing on the important subject of the role of science in environmental policymaking. This is an area of great interest and concern for me.
I have introduced legislation in past Congresses to improve the role of science in policy decisions at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). I believe that by improving science at the Agency, we can improve the framework of our regulatory decisions. It is important that these regulations be effective, not onerous and inefficient. They must be based on a solid foundation of scientific understanding and data.
In 2000, the National Research Council recommended changes to improve science within the EPA in their report, “Strengthening Science at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: Research Management and Peer Review Practices.” My legislation, the Environmental Research Enhancement Act, would have implemented several of the Council’s recommendations. Mr. Chairman, I understand that you are also working on legislation, and I look forward to working with you.
EPA was created in 1970 by President Nixon with a mission to protect human health and safeguard the environment. EPA was part of President Nixon’s reorganization efforts to effectively ensure the protection, development, and enhancement of the total environment.
This mission requires that EPA have a fundamental understanding of the science behind the real and potential threats to public health and the environment. Unfortunately, many institutions, citizens, and groups believe that science has not always played a significant role in EPA’s decision-making process. The National Research Council’s 2000 report concluded that, while the use of sound science is one of EPA’s goals, the Agency needs to change its current structure to allow science to play a more significant role in decisions made by the Administrator.
I want to quickly explain how my legislation was designed to improve policymaking at EPA. First, a new Deputy Administrator for Science and Technology would be established at EPA. This individual would oversee the Office of Research and Development; Environmental Information Agency; Science Advisory Board; Science Policy Council; and scientific and technical activities in the Agency’s regulatory programs. This new position would be equal in rank to the current Deputy Administrator and would report directly to the Administrator. The new Deputy would also be responsible for coordinating scientific research and application between the scientific and regulatory arms of the Agency to ensure that sound science is the basis for regulatory decisions. Second, EPA’s current top science job, Assistant Administrator for Research and Development, would be appointed for six years instead of the current four year political appointment. According to the Council, this position is one of EPA’s weakest and most transient administrative positions – even though this position addresses some of the Agency’s more important topics. By lengthening the term of this position, I hoped to remove it from the realm of politics – allowing the Assistant Administrator to focus on science and providing more continuity in the Agency’s scientific work across administrations.
I have long believed that sound science, not politics should drive our nation’s environmental policies. In fact, I believe that in harmonizing our nation’s economic, environmental and energy policies, sound science should be the uniting factor.
Unfortunately, this has not been the case, and we are paying for it in thousands of lost jobs and the highest natural gas prices in the world. Unless we start harmonizing our needs to become more energy independent, we will not be able to compete in the global marketplace and our national economy and national security will be in jeopardy.
Mr. Chairman, I again thank you for holding this hearing today.