November 18, 2014

Exxon-Backed Legislation to Increase Corporate Influence over EPA’s Scientific Board Passes

In the midst of congressional votes on the Keystone XL and NSA reform, the House of Representatives just passed a far-ranging bill to compel the EPA’s board of scientific advisors to include industry representatives. The bill, H.R. 1422, the Science Advisory Board Reform Act, is the latest attempt by the Republican-held Congress to manipulate the science underpinning environmental regulations.

The bill has been sharply criticized by scientists, environmental groups, and public health experts because it compromises the scientific independence of the EPA’s scientific advisors, noted Emily Atkins of ThinkProgress. The Union of Concerned Scientists explains that the bill “opens the door to more corporate influence on the Board, because the bill directly stipulates that experts with financial ties to corporations affected by SAB assessments are ‘not excluded.'”

The bill also changes the way the board conducts its own reviews of scientific research, obstructing the process by forcing the scientists to engage in special hearings to “discuss the state of the science” related to any regulatory or advisory activity. As the UCS notes, this requirement may force the Board to repeatedly re-examine the “state of the science” on climate change, toxins, and air pollutants.

Large corporations seeking to block new environmental regulations are on record supporting the bill.

A search of the lobbying disclosure system shows a partial read-out of the companies that supported H.R. 1422, the Science Advisory Board Reform Act.

ExxonMobil lobbyist Teresa Gorman is registered to support this bill.

— Ford Motor Company, through a seven person lobbying team, is registered to lobby on this legislation.

— The American Chemistry Council, a trade group representing Dow Chemical, Marathon Petroleum, Solvay America, ExxonMobil, L’Air Liquide, Akzo Nobel Industries, Honeywell International, Dupont, International Paper Company, and other large chemical firms lobbied in support of this bill.

— The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a lobbying group that represents Coca-Cola, eBay, CSC, Prudential, United Technologies, UnitedHealth, Xerox, Microsoft, Intel, Chevron, and other large firms, worked to support this bill.

— CropLife America, a trade group for the pesticides industry that represents Dow Chemical, BASF, Coca-Cola, Monsanto, FMC Corporation, Dupont, Syngenta, and other firms lobbied in support of this bill.

— The National Association of Manufacturers, which represents Koch Industries, Southern Company, Devon Energy, SASCO Chemical, Sherwin-Williams, Eli Lilly, ConAgra Foods and other firms, lobbied in support of this bill.

CropLife and the American Chemistry Council also sent a letter to legislators strongly endorsing the bill. When a similar bill passed the previous Congress, the the chemical lobby praised it as “common sense reform.”

Though the bill will not likely pass the Democrat-controlled U.S. Senate, come January, Republicans will have control of both chambers and may push the legislation again.