Whitehouse Statement at Environment and Public Works Committee Hearing on Scientific Integrity

As prepared for delivery

Thank you, Administrator Jackson, Mr. Stephenson, Dr. Grifo, Dr. Green, and Dr. Goldman, for joining us today to discuss scientific integrity and transparency at the Environmental Protection Agency. This is only Administrator Jackson's third appearance before the Senate, after her nomination hearing and budget hearing, a sign that she shares our belief in the importance of this. I want to thank our chairman, Senator Boxer, for her leadership on integrity and transparency; without her today's hearing would not have been possible.

Under the previous administration, EPA's integrity was wrecked. Science took a back seat to politics; polluters' interests came before protecting public health; and this proud agency suffered a seemingly endless string of embarrassing court rulings mocking agency arguments.

But the winds of change are blowing.

Under the leadership of President Obama and Administrator Jackson, science is resuming its rightful place in public policy, and EPA is reestablishing its reputation as an agency whose sole mission is to protect our health and environment. Two government-wide memoranda have directed all executive branch agencies to improve scientific integrity and achieve unprecedented levels of transparency and openness.

At EPA, Administrator Jackson has issued agency-specific guidance on the proper role of science and transparency in agency decision making. EPA has also begun to repair programs and protocols that undermined the proper role of science in the previous administration.

Last month, Administrator Jackson overhauled the Integrated Risk Information System, known as IRIS. IRIS assesses the toxicity of new chemicals to determine their potential risks to human health. Under the last administration , IRIS changed to a complicated, obscure, 25-step process full of unnecessary conflicts of interest and delays - reviews were taking five or six years or more, and the Office of Management and Budget was given undue secret influence over the outcome. The overhaul restores the integrity of the IRIS system and ensures that the majority of IRIS reviews are complete within 23 months.

Administration Jackson has also resumed the "staff white paper," used to give the Administrator the recommendations of EPA's expert scientists, which former Administrator Johnson had replaced with an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking. This seemed to be an obvious attempt to sideline the expert opinion of agency scientists to fawn the opinions of industries regulated by EPA.

While we applaud this great start, there is still much more to do.

The last eight years have taught us that we need lasting reforms that permanently re-establish EPA's credibility and restore the pride of its dedicated employees, who work long hours, for much less money than they could be paid elsewhere, with passion and dedication, because they care deeply about EPA's mission. I hope we will have the opportunity to discuss some of these today.

EPA's important mission, protecting the health of the American people and the environment that sustains us and our children, gives it sobering responsibilities- it must be, as its first Administrator, William Ruckelshaus, described it: "an independent agency" with "only the critical obligation to protect and enhance the environment."

Administrator Jackson, you and your colleagues have shown that you stand ready to meet these responsibilities. I welcome you and look forward to your testimony today.