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H.R. 1431 (115th): EPA Science Advisory Board Reform Act of 2017

H.R. 1431 amends federal law relating to the Scientific Advisory Board to establish qualifications for members, reinforce independence of the Board, and facilitate public participation in the Board’s advisory activities.

The bill requires the Board to be comprised of individuals whose education, training, and experience qualify them to evaluate scientific and technical information. The bill requires that the scientific and technical points of view be fairly balanced among Board members, and that at least ten percent of the members be drawn from state, local, or tribal governments. H.R. 1431 requires the Board to solicit nominations from the public and from relevant federal agencies, and requires that the list of nominations and the entities that nominated them be made public. Upon their provisional nomination, nominees must disclose their financial relationships and interests—including EPA grants, contracts, cooperative agreements, or other financial assistance that is relevant to the Board’s activities. They must also disclose relevant professional activities.

This legislation reinforces the independence of the Board. H.R. 1431 facilitates public participation in the Board’s advisory activities by making all reports and relevant scientific information public, and providing information to both the public and the Board simultaneously when it is received. The bill requires the Board to hold public information-gathering sessions before conducting major advisory activities, solicit public comments on questions to be asked to the Board, encourage public comments during Board proceedings, and require public comments to be published in the Federal Register. Reports by the Board must include written responses to significant and substantive public comments and the public must be given an additional fifteen days following Board meetings to give additional comments.

Finally, H.R. 1431 requires the Board to strive to avoid making policy determinations or recommendations, and requires that any policy advice be distinguished from scientific determinations.

Last updated Apr 18, 2017. Source: Republican Policy Committee

The summary below was written by the Congressional Research Service, which is a nonpartisan division of the Library of Congress, and was published on Mar 30, 2017.

(This measure has not been amended since it was reported to the House on March 27, 2017. The summary of that version is repeated here.)

EPA Science Advisory Board Reform Act of 2017

(Sec. 2) This bill amends the Environmental Research, Development, and Demonstration Authorization Act of 1978 to revise the process of selecting members of the Science Advisory Board, guidelines for participation in board advisory activities, and terms of office. The board provides scientific advice to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). This bill requires the board to independently provide that advice.

Among the revisions to requirements concerning the board's membership are the following:

a requirement to balance scientific and technical points of view; a set minimum level of representation from state, local, or tribal governments; allowance of affiliation with, or representation of, entities that may have a potential interest in the board's advisory activities; conflict of interest restrictions; restrictions on participation in advisory activities involving review of a member's work; a prohibition on appointment of registered lobbyists; and prohibitions on member receipt of current EPA grants or contracts. The EPA must make public a list of nominees to the board and accept public comments on the nominees. Reports filed upon the provisional nomination of a member disclosing financial relationships and interests must also be made public.

The EPA must provide draft risk or hazard assessments in its regulatory proposals and documents to the board. The board's advice and comments must be included in the record regarding any such proposal and published in the Federal Register.

The board's member committees and investigative panels must operate in accordance with the membership, participation, and policy requirements contained in this bill, including new requirements for public participation in advisory activities of the board. The member committees and investigative panels do not have the authority to make decisions on behalf of the board and may not report directly to the EPA. The bill imposes additional public participation requirements, including: The EPA and the board must make public all reports and relevant scientific information at the same time they are received by the board; The board must hold public information-gathering sessions to discuss the state of the science related to a major advisory activity; Prior to convening a member committee or investigative panel, the EPA must accept and address public comments on questions asked of the board, and The board, member committees, and investigative panels may not accept a question that unduly narrows the scope of an advisory activity. In carrying out its advisory activities, the board must: (1) strive to avoid making policy determinations or recommendations, (2) communicate uncertainties associated with the scientific advice provided to the EPA or Congress, (3) encourage dissenting members to make their views known, (4) conduct periodic reviews to ensure that its activities address the most important scientific issues affecting the EPA, and (5) respond to Congress fully and in a timely manner. (Sec. 3) This bill shall not be construed as supplanting the requirements of the Federal Advisory Committee Act or the Ethics in Government Act of 1978.