EPA: Back to science

Wednesday - 6/10/2009, 7:06am EDT

WFED's Max Cacas

A Senate committee hears testimony on changes at the Environmental Protection Agency reversing what some consider eight years of setbacks for the agency's career scientists.

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By Max Cacas

In recent months, President Obama and EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson have announced changes to the process by which science becomes part of public policy on the environment. A Senate committee invited Jackson to talk about the changes yesterday.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D.-R.I.) chair of the newly created Oversight Subcommittee of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, says nothing underscores the political and scientific differences between the Bush EPA and the current edition of the agency than the nearly 8-year long battle over the science behind the policy.

"Many of us view the EPA as an organization that is emerging from a terrible time," he told the panel while opening a hearing entitled "Scientific Integrity and Transparency Reforms at the Environmental Protection Agency."

John Stephenson, Director for Natural Resources and Environment with the Government Accountability Office, took note of the fact that since taking office EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson has moved to improve the EPA's Integrated Risk Information System, or IRIS, a critical database containing the health effects of human exposure to more than 540 chemicals.

He noted that earlier this year, GAO had been so dissatisfied with efforts to make needed improvements to IRIS that the program had been placed on the congressional watchdog's "High Risk List".

EPA's Jackson testified how she and President Obama are overturning the approach of the past administration in favor of one that is more transparent and scientific.

While the laws that EPA implements leave room for policy judgements, the scientific findings of these judgements should be arrived at independently, using well-established scientific methods, including peer review.

Whitehouse says his new oversight subcommittee will look into ways of distinguishing between legitimate private sector science, and that which he says is used for propaganda.

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Senate - Environment and Public Works Committee

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