(Remarks as prepared for delivery)
I would like to begin by welcoming Administrator Jackson and our other witnesses to this hearing on scientific integrity. The Obama Administration has made a clear commitment to scientific integrity and transparency, and I commend this major step forward.
In recent years, science has been under siege. From clean air to perchlorate to children’s health in general, decisions that should have been based on the recommendations of scientific experts were weakened or derailed by political interference.
In case after case, changes were made that allowed polluters and other special interests to undermine the role of science in decisions that affect environmental quality and the health of our children and families.
For example, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) documented dangerous changes to EPA’s "Integrated Risk Information System," or IRIS, which establishes "safe levels" for toxic chemicals. The changes gave the White House Office of Management and Budget, Department of Defense and other agencies, and polluting industries more influence in the process, and reduced the role of EPA’s scientists.
As a result, EPA’s risk assessments slowed to a crawl, and evaluations of several toxic chemicals were essentially derailed. Among those was the IRIS assessment for TCE, a solvent that is the most common organic groundwater contaminant in the United States, and which causes cancer, including childhood cancer, and birth defects.
I am pleased to see that the Obama Administration has already taken important steps to reverse the changes in the IRIS process. And there is more that can be done.
President Obama has made increasing scientific integrity a priority for the entire federal government. In March, the President issued a landmark memorandum on this issue.
As the President has said, ensuring scientific integrity “is how we will harness the power of science to achieve our goals – to preserve our environment and protect our national security; to create the jobs of the future, and live longer, healthier lives.”
I would like to thank Administrator Jackson for acting quickly to specifically highlight the importance of scientific integrity within the Environmental Protection Agency, and for acting to implement reforms that will help the EPA generate and use the best available science and restore the public’s confidence in public health and environmental protections. We must continue to work together, and we will continue to conduct oversight of this critical issue.
It is essential that we restore the public’s trust in our government’s use of science. We have a unique opportunity to create lasting institutional reforms that increase transparency and scientific integrity and chart a new course for EPA throughout this Administration and beyond.
I look forward to hearing from all of today’s witnesses.