406 Dirksen EPW Hearing Room

Christopher S. Bond




Tuesday, May 6, 2008, 10:00am, SD-406


Madame Chairman, thank you for holding this hearing today. This hearing allows us to examine the politicization of environmental protection, attempts to roll back environmental law and the disregard of scientific study.

Some may think that I am one day early. That is the goal of tomorrow’s hearing as I understand it. However, I would say that before stones are thrown tomorrow, we should examine the glass house some are living in today.

Part of the purpose of this hearing is to establish the need for a bill currently before the Senate, S. 150. That legislation would require EPA to issue regulations on perchlorate levels in drinking water.

Sponsors of this legislation are well meaning. They have the best interests of their constituents at heart, but they fail to acknowledge that their effort is the very definition of political regulation. It is politicians here in the Senate dictating the outcome of EPA’s environmental decisionmaking.

And yet in past months and again tomorrow these same folks are trying to tell us that political officials should not tell career scientists and environmental specialists what to do.

Their perchlorate bill also represents a roll-back of environmental law. Ironically, Congress amended the Safe Drinking Water Act a dozen years ago to get politicians out of the business of deciding which compounds to regulate.

The Safe Drinking Water Act now includes a specific process designed to protect public health. The law specifically requires risk assessment and the use of science in decisionmaking. Under the law, the Administrator must present information to the public and conduct a health risk reduction and cost analysis.

But advocates would sweep that environmental law aside and go straight to the conclusion they favor. Apparently, rolling back environmental laws are ok with them if and when they choose.

This effort also includes a minimization of the work of the National Academy of Sciences. Witnesses will tell us today why we should not follow the natural conclusions of an NAS study on perchlorate. But how many times have we heard charges of heeding the advice of political figures instead of peer reviewed science?

Indeed, two weeks ago, an NAS study by the National Research Council was heralded when it determined that short-term exposure to ozone is likely to cause premature death in some cases. Two weeks later when the NAS is not so helpful, it becomes an inconvenient truth to be minimized or discounted.

Now I agree with the sponsors of this hearing that we must protect the health of women and children from compounds like perchlorate. We must understand the prime pathways perchlorate is getting into the bodies of our infants and children and put a stop to that. Studies indicate the primary route is through baby food, dairy products and vegetables, and so we need to take a hard look at regulating that.

But the decision on whether or not to regulate perchlorate in water, as with all of these technical decisions, is best left to the scientific experts using the processes established by our environmental law. We should not do as some propose and override our environmental law, minimize peer reviewed science, or act by political fiat.

Thank you.