Science at the EPA?
Wednesday's hearings before the Senate, Lisa Jackson made it clear that science would play a prominent role at the EPA if she is confirmed as the agency's new head. Why is this newsworthy? In the past, science has taken a backseat to politics, which can be dangerous for several reasons.
For an agency charged with protecting the environment, considerations like public health and environmental quality should come first. When politics and special interests trump science, the public health and the environment suffer at their expense.
Ignoring science is also a recipe for letting small problems become big problems. For instance, if regulators fail to protect species with declining populations, the species can move to the verge of extinction. Bringing a species back from that point is almost never cheaper than preventing it in the first place. The same holds for protecting drinking water sources - once they become contaminated, restoration is more expensive than protection.
Science also represents the most objective approach possible. Whether it's determining safe levels of mercury in seafood or the impact of air pollution on children's health, the scientific method is the best way to find the answer. When industries or lobbying groups override empirical facts, the long-term interests of the American public inevitably suffer.
Making science a priority for scientists? That's change both parties can agree on.