The House considered and passed three bad bills unlikely to be considered by the Senate and likely to be vetoed should they reach President Obama. Explanations for these three bills are based on Rep. Michael Capuano’s weekly e-mail.
H.R. 1422, EPA Science Advisory Board Reform Act
The House considered H.R. 1422, EPA Science Advisory Board Reform Act. This legislation makes changes to the Science Advisory Board (SAB) which was established to advise the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on scientific matters. H.R. 1422 changes the constitution of the board, making more positions available to private sector scientists, such as scientists doing research for a pharmaceutical or an energy company. This gives the private industry greater weight over the positions taken by the SAB. The legislation also establishes a public comment period for all matters that the SAB is considering. I support soliciting public input but the problem with this legislation is that it requires the board to respond directly to every comment and does not provide additional resources for what is clearly a significant increase in workload. Obama Administration officials recommend a veto. Every Republican save one (Gibson, R-NY) voted in favor.
H.R. 4012, Secret Science Reform Act of 2014
The House considered H.R. 4012, Secret Science Reform Act of 2014. This legislation also has to do with the EPA. It prevents the EPA from taking nearly any action on rulemaking (from simply proposing a rule to finalizing it) unless all of the scientific data that was used to inform their decision making is publicly available to the degree that it can be analyzed and even reproduced. The problem with this approach is that H.R. 4012 will effectively eliminate the use of any research related to personal health records or other confidential information. For example, if the EPA was studying a particular pesticide, it could not use any information whatsoever related to the health impact of the product because that patient information is protected by privacy laws. The EPA also could not use information from the pesticide manufacturer that is protected by business privacy laws. It is just not feasible to propose an EPA rule without the benefit of all available data. Unless the parties in question waive their privacy rights, that data would have to be excluded.
By requiring the public availability of all information used in a rulemaking, as well as making available detailed instructions on how to interpret and use the data, H.R. 4012 imposes significant staff and financial burdens. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has estimated that H.R. 4012 would cost $1 billion over the next four years. Administration officials recommend a veto. Every Republican save one (Gibson, R-NY) voted in favor.
H.R. 4795, Promoting New Manufacturing Act
Yesterday the House considered H.R. 4795, Promoting New Manufacturing Act. Despite its promising title, this legislation actually weakens protections currently in place to protect air quality. The Clean Air Act requires that any permit applications for new construction must include detailed plans for how the new or expanded facility will address pollution. Applicants must have plans in place that show the project will comply with National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS). Whenever the EPA updates NAAQS, all applicants must show that they can comply with the new standards. H.R. 4795 exempts the new facilities from complying with any updates that the EPA makes to the NAAQS. Administration officials recommend a veto. Every Republican voted in favor.