AGI Home | About AGIContact UsSearch 
     

Printable Version

Summary of Hearings on Science at the Environmental Protection Agency (5-28-04)

  • May 19, 2004: House Science Committee Subcommittee on Environment, Technology, and Standards Hearing on "Homeland Security Research and Development at the EPA: Taking Stock and Looking Ahead".
  • September 9, 2003: House Government Reform Subcommittee on Energy Policy, Natural Resources and Regulatory Affairs Hearing on the Elevation of the EPA to Department Level Status: Federal and State Views
  • June 6, 2003: House Government Reform Subcommittee on Energy Policy, Natural Resources and Regulatory Affairs Hearing on the Elevation of the Environmental Protection Agency to Departmental Level Status

House Science Committee Subcommittee on Environment, Technology, and Standards
Hearing on "Homeland Security Research and Development at the EPA:
Taking Stock and Looking Ahead
"
May 19, 2004

Witnesses
Dr. Paul Gilman, Assistant Administrator for the Office of Research and Development, U.S. EPA
Dr. Penrose C. Albright, Assistant Secretary in the Science and Technology Directorate at the Department of Homeland Security.
Dr. Charles E. Kolb, Jr., President and CEO of Aerodyne Research, Inc., and a member of the panel that reviewed EPA's Safe Buildings Research Program
Dr. Gregory B. Baecher, Professor and Chairman of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Maryland, and a member of the National Academy of Sciences panel that reviewed EPA's Water Security Research Program

On May 19th, the Subcommittee on Environment, Technology, and Standards of the House Science Committee held a hearing to discuss the homeland security research programs of the Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA has come under recent criticism from Rep. Vernon Ehlers (R-MI) for dropping several security-related projects involving contaminant research. Ehlers questioned the long-term plans of the EPA for its new homeland security research center in Cincinnati. Panels from the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) recently reviewed the two main EPA programs in question--the Water Security Research Program, and the Safe Buildings Research Program.

Dr. Paul Gilman, Assistant Administrator for the Office of Research and Development at the EPA, outlined the responsibilities and activities of the EPA relating to homeland security including those related to water resources. The EPA Office of Water is coordinating with other agencies to validate and standardize sampling and analysis methods, and to evaluate disinfection methods of contaminated waters. Gilman also said that the office is conducting research which will determine particular water system vulnerabilities and potential rates of contaminant disbursement, and is working closely with USGS to test new monitoring technologies.

Dr. Penrose C. Albright, Assistant Secretary in the Science and Technology Directorate at the Department of Homeland Security, described to the committee how the EPA and DHS are coordinating their efforts. He acknowledged that the EPA is the lead agency on a few specific terrorism-related issues, including the nation's water security. He recommended that the EPA address longer-term needs when formulating its research and development agenda.

Gregory B. Baecher of the University of Maryland was a member of the NAS Panel that reviewed the EPA's Water Security Research Program. The panel proposed revisions to security needs identified by the EPA program, and also offered suggestions to the prioritization of program projects. It recommended improved coordination and information flow between agencies involved in the program's projects, as the data gathered by the EPA is not always effectively being translated into action.

-BKM

House Government Reform Subcommittee on Energy Policy, Natural Resources and Regulatory Affairs
The Elevation of the Environmental Protection Agency to Departmental Level Status: Federal and State Views

September 9, 2003

Witnesses

James L. Connaughton, Council on Environmental Quality
Marianne Horinko, Acting Administrator, United States Environmental Protection Agency
Honorable Warren Chisum, Texas State Representative
Howard Roitman, Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment
Dr. Ron Hammerschmidt, Director of the Division of Environment at the Kansas Department of Health and Environment
Donald Elliott, Former EPA General Counsel and current Partner in Willkie, Farr, & Gallagher LLPDr.
Alan Moghissi, President of the Institute for Regulatory Science
Gary S. Guzy, Former EPA General Counsel & current Partner, Foley Hoag LLP

On September 9, 2003, the Bush Administration indicated for the first time that it would support the restructuring of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) during House Government Reform Subcommittee on Energy Policy, Natural Resources and Regulatory Affairs hearing on the Elevation of the EPA to Departmental Status. The hearing (the 5th to date on this matter) focused on two bills: H.R. 37 introduced by House Science Committee Chairman Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY) and H.R. 2138 introduced by Subcommittee Chairman Doug Ose (R-CA). The subcommittee's web page includes the chairman's opening remarks and witness testimony.

H.R. 37 would simply transform EPA into the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), while H.R. 2138 would introduce some structural changes in addition to EPA elevation. The latter bill would create an Office of Policy, Planning and Innovation, an Office of Science and Information and an Office of Implementation, Compliance and Enforcement, each of which would have an Under Secretary to report to the New Secretary. H.R. 2138 also calls for the creation of a Bureau of Environmental Statistics (BES) to collect and analyze environmental data.

Ose orchestrated the hearing to garner on-the-record support for his bill. He repeatedly asked witnesses about the benefits of restructuring EPA. In particular, he addressed the bill's capacity to reduce cross-media contamination-pollution that impacts two or more media, such as air and water. Currently divided into separate offices for different media, EPA does not effectively combat cross-media pollution. This is an important issue in California, Ose's home state, where MTBE is a gasoline additive that reduces air pollution, but may also be a carcinogen contaminating California's water supply.

Ose first addressed a panel composed of Acting EPA Administrator Marianne Horinko and White House Council on Environmental Quality Chairman James Connaughton, both of whom spoke on behalf of the White House. The Administration had previously said that it would endorse a "clean" EPA Cabinet-status bill, which most interpreted as support for the bare-bones H.R. 37 legislation that does not call for restructuring. Horinko and Connaughton dispelled this perception, instead conveying the President's support of H.R. 2138 with only minor changes to increase agency flexibility. The witnesses also agreed with Ose's assertion that that H.R. 2138 is in fact a "clean" bill, in that the changes it proposes are purely structural and do not alter any environmental regulations.

Horinko and Connaughton acknowledged that the new structure, with only three Under Secretaries, would be more manageable and allow for better coordination than the current system with no Under Secretaries and 20 Assistant Administrators reporting to the Administrator. They also recognized that the three broad offices would be better able to address cross-media contamination. Finally, the Administration said that a BES would allow EPA initiatives to be based upon more sound science -- a weakness for which EPA has been criticized in the past.

Subcommittee Ranking Member John Tierney (D-MA), on the other hand, raised concerns about H.R. 2138. He warned that environmental initiatives might be blocked because of EPA's "new" mission. As written in the bill, EPA would be limited to protecting the public from "unreasonable environmental risk" rather than its current license to "protect human health and to safeguard the natural environment." He also worried that some information, now available to the public, would become confidential business information in the department. Horinko assured Tierney that she would work with Democrats to iron out these issues.

One witness from the second panel, former EPA General Counsel Gary S. Guzy, voiced his concern with the proposed structural reorganization of EPA in H.R. 2138. He warned that several previous EPA elevation bills had become bogged down in debates over unrelated changes to the agency, and that H.R. 2138 could suffer a similar fate. Guzy also cautioned that "perverse unintended consequences," explaining that appointing a separate Undersecretary for Science and Information would create a disconnect between science and the branches of EPA dealing with regulation and implementation.

The other witnesses, mainly state officials and policy experts, disagreed, instead backing the restructuring included in H.R. 2138. They particularly applauded the credibility that the creation of a Bureau of Environmental Statistics would lend to scientific information released by EPA. As they testified, separating the Office of Science and Information from policy and regulatory issues would make this information more impartial. They also hoped that H.R. 2138 would facilitate better coordination between state and federal regulators.

Subcommittee member and presidential hopeful Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) and Ranking Member of the Government Reform Committee, Henry Waxman (D-CA), used the hearing as an opportunity to question Horinko about Bush's poor environmental record. Specifically, they grilled her on recent controversial relaxation of EPA's New Source Review (NSR) regulations.

Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt (R), Bush's nominee for EPA Administrator, was not invited to testify.

-AMS

House Government Reform Subcommittee on Energy Policy, Natural Resources and Regulatory Affairs
The Elevation of the Environmental Protection Agency to Departmental Level Status

June 6, 2003

Witnesses
Dr. Paul R. Portney, President of Resources for the Future
Dr. George M. Gray, Acting Director of Center for Risk Analysis, Harvard University
Dr. Steven F. Hayward, American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
Wesley P. Warren, Natural Resources Defense Council
Rena I. Steinzor, Professor at University of Maryland and Board Member at the Center for Progressive Regulation
Written testimony was also submitted by Janice Mazurek, Progressive Policy Institute

On June 6, 2003, the House Government Reform Subcommittee on Energy Policy, Natural Resources and Regulatory Affairs held a hearing on two bills addressing the elevation of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to departmental level status: H.R. 37 and H.R. 2138. Introduced by House Science Committee chairman Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY), H.R. 37 would elevate the EPA to department status with no changes in structure or authority. H.R. 2138 was introduced by subcommittee chairman Doug Ose (R-CA) and not only would elevate the agency's status but also would alter its structure as well as create a Bureau of Environmental Statistics. The subcommittee heard from scientists, professors, and policy experts, but no administration witnesses.

H.R. 2138's proposed new structure for the EPA consists of three Under Secretaries overseen by the Department Secretary, one of whom would be in charge of the Science and Information Division. The proposed Bureau of Environmental Statistics would operate within this division, though the bill may stipulate that it have an independent director.

Chairman Ose asked the witnesses for their opinions on whether H.R. 2138 should include structural reform in its status-elevation proposal. Paul Portney, George Gray, and Steven Hayward all agreed that reform should be included but differed in their enthusiasm, whereas Wesley Warren and Rena Steinzor felt that restructuring would be ineffective and detrimental to the EPA's productivity.

The centralization of research into the Division of Science and Information raised concerns from two panelists that policy makers and scientists would be isolated from each other, making communication and cooperation between the two increasingly difficult. The remaining three panelists supported the centralization and isolation, with Portney and Gray both arguing that science practiced by the EPA is often perceived as being heavily influenced, or "contaminated," by the administration's policy. They argue that insulating research from the control of policymakers would increase the credibility of the agency's data and policies. Gray acknowledged that the separation of science from policy could increase basic research funding at the expense of research projects immediately relevant to the work of the agency. Warren and Steinzor argued that improvements could be made to the current agency simply by increasing funding and correcting problems within the agency's peer-review process.

The witnesses also responded to Ose's inquiry as to their support for the inclusion of a cost-benefit analysis and prioritization of EPA regulations in the bill. Two panelists said no on both counts, citing cost-benefit analysis requirements already in place and the difficulty of prioritization given the diversity of opinions on the topic. Two other witnesses agreed that such proposals would be ideal, but including them in the bill would most likely hold up the EPA's status elevation, which they both deemed of higher priority than the two inclusions.

-ERS

Sources: Hearing testimony, Greenwire.

Contributed by Emily R. Scott, 2003 AGI/AIPG Summer Intern; Ashley M. Smith 2003 AGI/AAPG Fall Semester Intern; and Bridget Martin, 2004 AGI/AIPG Summer Intern.

Please send any comments or requests for information to AGI Government Affairs Program.

Last updated on May 28, 2004


  Information Services |Geoscience Education |Public Policy |Environmental
Geoscience
 |
Publications |Workforce |AGI Events


agi logo

© 2014. All rights reserved.
American Geosciences Institute, 4220 King Street, Alexandria, VA 22302-1502.
Please send any comments or problems with this site to: webmaster@agiweb.org.
Privacy Policy