A House panel advanced legislation Oct. 17 to free up government science, encourage environmentally friendly chemicals, and spark energy innovation.
The Scientific Integrity Act (H.R. 1709) would bar the federal government from suppressing agency scientific research and intimidating or coercing anyone to censor scientific findings.
It was approved on a 25-6 vote. Five Republicans supported the bill.
Republicans amended the bill to delete language that would have let government scientists speak to reporters without getting their superiors’ permission.
That concession, contained in an amendment from ranking member Rep. Frank Lucas (R-Okla.), had been negotiated with Democrats beforehand.
“President [Donald] Trump’s multi-agency assault on environmental standards has hinged on efforts to distort, bury, and even rewrite credible public scientific findings, including his absurd denial of the growing climate crisis and efforts to cover up evidence that the American people are being exposed to dangerous toxins,” Rep. Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.), the bill’s House sponsor, said in a March statement.
Rep. Bill Posey (R-Fla.), who voted against the measure, said he wanted to see penalties for noncompliance included in the bill before it goes to the House floor.
New, Greener Chemicals
The committee also approved, by unanimous voice vote, the Sustainable Chemistry Research and Development Act (H.R. 2051, S. 999) to encourage the development of new chemicals and processes with a smaller environmental footprint.
The bill, offered by Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.), would provide grants, training, and educational opportunities for scientists and engineers.
“We can do more to ensure the things we use every day—from our laundry detergent to our cars—are produced in a way that maintains their high quality while protecting our health and our planet,” Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.), the bill’s Senate sponsor, said in an April statement.
The bill is supported by the American Chemical Society, American Chemistry Council, and companies including BASF SE, the Dow Chemical Co., DuPont de Nemours Inc., and Procter & Gamble Co., according to Coons’ office.
More ARPA-E Funding
Another bill, the ARPA-E Reauthorization Act (H.R. 4091), would reauthorize and boost funding for the Energy Department’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy. It was approved on a unanimous voice vote.
The measure would increase ARPA-E’s authorization level, starting with the $428 million set forth in the House Energy and Water Appropriations bill for fiscal 2020. In fiscal 2024 the funding would rise to $1 billion, more than twice the current level.
ARPA-E has spurred more than $2.9 billion in private sector follow-up funding across 145 projects since the agency was founded in 2009, said Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas), the bill’s sponsor and chair of the committee.
The program has only been able to accept 1% of the proposals it receives because of a lack of funding, Johnson said.
“Too many good ideas have ended up falling by the wayside,” she said.
The committee accepted two amendments by voice vote. One, from Johnson, would limit duplication between ARPA-E projects and other Energy Department projects. Another, from Rep. Bill Foster (D-Ill.), would appoint a chief evaluation officer to oversee ARPA-E.