What GAO Found
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) did not update its policies or requirements on science quality and integrity for the Science Advisory Board (SAB) in response to the direction in the explanatory statement accompanying the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2016, nor did it specifically address all of the directives in the statement. Instead, EPA developed a draft document that describes how the SAB Staff Office implements existing policies and procedures, according to the letter accompanying this document and SAB Staff Office officials GAO interviewed. The letter accompanying the draft document provided to GAO for review was dated September 30, 2016–more than 6 months after the deadline in the explanatory statement.
The draft document EPA developed states that EPA has policies to ensure that advisory committees operate in accordance with (1) the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA) and its implementing regulations, (2) statutes and regulations regarding ethics requirements for members of advisory committees and panels, and (3) other relevant EPA policies, including the Scientific Integrity Policy and the Peer Review Policy. According to the draft document, EPA addresses SAB scientific quality and integrity issues–such as independence and objectivity, committee composition and balance, and freedom from financial conflicts of interest–through its Scientific Integrity Policy, Peer Review Policy, Peer Review Handbook, and the Office of Management and Budget Peer Review Bulletin. With regard to the first directive in the explanatory statement, the draft document does not include specific or numeric goals on increasing membership from states and tribes, but it states that the SAB Staff Office is committed to expanding the diversity of scientific perspectives on the SAB, including the perspectives of scientists from state and local governments, tribes, industry, and nongovernmental organizations. According to SAB Staff Office officials, while they seek to increase the participation of state scientists, they often receive few applications from these scientists and, therefore, meeting a numeric goal could be challenging. With regard to the second directive in the explanatory statement, the draft document does not discuss whether EPA’s Administrator made a decision about the appropriateness of updating financial-related metrics for identifying conflicts of interest or bias. SAB Staff Office officials said that this is because they rely on the existing legal and policy framework as appropriate financial metrics for identifying conflicts of interest or bias. With regard to the third directive in the explanatory statement, the draft document refers to but does not update the practices for considering and responding to public comments that are included in the Peer Review Handbook and the SAB handbook. GAO is not making a recommendation at this time because EPA has not yet finalized its policy statement. However, as EPA moves forward, GAO encourages it to specifically address the directives provided in the explanatory statement.
Why GAO Did This Study
In formulating rules to protect the environment and public health, EPA relies on the SAB as a source of scientific and technical advice. The SAB consists of about 45 independent experts in the fields of science, engineering, economics, and other social sciences and is overseen by the SAB Staff Office, which is staffed by EPA employees. An explanatory statement accompanying the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2016 directed EPA to develop an updated policy statement on science quality and integrity for the SAB. According to the explanatory statement, the policy statement should include (1) goals on increasing membership from states and tribes; (2) an evaluation of potential bias, if EPA’s Administrator decides that financial-related metrics are appropriate to identify conflicts of interest or bias; and (3) direction on treating public comments. The explanatory statement also directed EPA to submit a draft of the policy statement to GAO for review.
GAO assessed whether EPA drafted an updated policy statement that addressed the directives in the explanatory statement. GAO reviewed EPA documents and interviewed EPA officials, including SAB Staff Office officials.
Day: June 8, 2017
Sustainability and pallets: Making change for the long haul
Read the full story in GreenBiz.
As sustainability leaders such as IKEA have demonstrated, companies can direct suppliers to ship on lightweight, recyclable corrugated cardboard pallets. Doing so will save money, protect employees, reduce carbon footprints and advance zero waste goals.
Green Jobs Are Still The Future Of Work After Trump’s Paris Accord Pullout
Read the full story in Fast Company.
While President Trump stood in the White House Rose Garden last Thursday to announce America’s withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord, I was in Brussels at a green jobs conference. It was a stark contrast. Even as Trump announced that the world’s second-largest polluter would no longer commit to curbing carbon emissions, a choice he wrongly framed as good for the U.S. economy, I talked with European leaders about the promise of advancing a green economy and ways to avoid disastrous environmental policies that could undermine it.
Webinar: They’ll Leave the Light On for You – and Other Energy Waste in Hospitality
June 14, 2017 from 12:00 PM to 1:00 PM CDT
Long hours of use, high occupancy, rigid comfort standards, and inefficient equipment lead to big energy bills for hotels. Through field study with mid-scale hotels in Minnesota, an energy efficiency consulting firm investigated new opportunities for energy efficiency in the hospitality sector.
Bald eagles face deadly threat from lead poisoning
Read the full story at Great Lakes Echo.
The comeback of the American bald eagle is a success story across the Great Lakes region, and keeping them safe is a high priority for many environmental professionals. But one serious threat to the great raptor is lead poisoning.
How Trump’s Funding Cuts Will Make America More Toxic Again
Read the full story in Fast Company.
Trump’s environmental chief praises the Superfund program. But if he wants to improve the country’s health–and property values–he’ll have to fight for it.
U.S. Pays Farmers Billions To Save The Soil. But It’s Blowing Away
Read the full story from NPR.
Soil has been blowing away from the Great Plains ever since farmers first plowed up the prairie. It reached crisis levels during the Dust Bowl of the 1930s, when windblown soil turned day into night.
In recent years, dust storms have returned, driven mainly by drought. But Shook — and others — say farmers are making the problem worse by taking land where grass used to grow and plowing it up, exposing vulnerable soil.
EPA: Don’t Make New Brownfields
Read the full story at CityLab.
It doesn’t make sense to keep funding toxic cleanup efforts while simultaneously loosening regulations.
Now: Play Jenga With Ocean Plastic
Read the full story at Triple Pundit.
The Plastic Bank, on the other hand, is tackling the human angle. It provides a living wage to individuals in developing countries who are willing to clean up the plastic on their beaches. The refuse is then funneled to companies that recycle it into products sold across the globe.
One of the companies that has been working to develop a supply chain is Pokonobe Associates, the maker of the Jenga game. The company has discovered that commercial plastic fishing nets provide ideal material for making Jenga’s light-weight stackable blocks. But there’s another motivator to its interest: It hopes that by creating a means to recycle fishing nets into toys, it can educate consumers about the importance of stopping ocean pollution.
Startup upcycles discarded chopsticks into new decor & furniture (Video)
Read the full story from Treehugger.
Chopsticks have a long and storied history, dating back to 2100 BC when Da Yu, the founder of the Xia dynasty, was trying to reach a flood zone. In his haste, he didn’t want to wait for his food to cool down, and adapted two twigs to help him eat his food quickly. With the popularization of Asian food all over the world, chopsticks — especially the disposable kind — are now being used all over the world.
But throwaway chopsticks are an unmitigated environmental disaster. In China alone, 80 billion chopsticks are thrown away each year, requiring hundreds of acres of forest to be cut down every day just to keep up with the demand. In response, the Bring Your Own Chopsticks (BYOC) movement is gaining ground in places like Japan, China and Taiwan (most notably, in Korea metal chopsticks are used — a good idea).
But what to do still with all those discarded chopsticks? Vancouver, Canada’s Chopvalue has a great idea: cleaning them up and turning them into home accessories and furniture.
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