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June 14, 2005

2005

June 14, 2005

HEADLINE

L-HHS Bill Passes House of Representatives

On Friday, June 24, the House of Representatives passed the fiscal year 2006 Labor Health and Human Services (L-HHS). The appropriations bill which provides funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the rest of the public health service. Overall, the bill provides $142.5 billion for programs under its jurisdiction, a cut of $163 million from the fiscal year 2005 level. The bill will provide $142.5 billion, a $163 million cut from last year.

Congress provides $28.5 billion in funding for the NIH, a 0.5 percent increase over last year. The bill also provides 6.1 billion for the CDC, an increase of $1.3 billion and $1.6 billion more than the President’s request. The bulk of the additional CDC funding is dedicated to bio-terrorism preparedness programs. The bill provides the following funding for specific programs of interest to respiratory community:

National Institutes of Health

Program
FY05 Actual
FY06 House Appropriation Committee
%
NHLBI
$2,941,201
$2,951,270
+0.3
NIAID
4,303,640
4,359,395
-1.3
NIEHS
644,505
647,608
+0.5
NINR
138,072
138,729
+0.5
FIC
66,632
67,048
+0.6
NIH Total
28,364,515
28,506,805
+0.5

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Program
FY05 Actual
FY06 House Appropriation Committee
%
NIOSH
$286,041
$251,241
-13.8
HIV/AIDS, STD and TB Prevention*
951,565
956,138
-0.5
Environmental Health and Injury Prevention**
285,721
85,721
0
CDC total
4,775,810
6,103,786
+27.8

* Within HIV/AIDS, STD and TB Prevention, the TB program received $138,811, a 0.8% decrease from FY05.
** Within Environmental Health and Prevention, Environmental Health received $147,483, the same as in FY05.

Of particular concern to the respiratory community is the significant cut in the CDC National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health. Congress cut the NIOSH program by $31 million, a 13 percent cut over last year’s funding. The ATS, working with the Friends of NIOSH coalition, will appeal to the Senate to restore the NIOSH funding cut in the House bill.

Controversial Amendments Part of L-HHS Bill

During the deliberations of the L-HHS bill, several controversial amendments were considered. The House Appropriations Committee debated and rejected an amendment offered by Rep. Dave Weldon (R-FL) to ban the use of federal funding for any institution that performs or funds human cloning research. The amendment was opposed by supporters of stem cell research and committee leaders concerned that this controversial issue would jeopardize passage of the.

During the full House consideration of the bill, the House rejected an amendment offered by Reps. Steven LaTourette (R-OH) and Major Owens (D-NY) to develop Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards to require annual respirator fit tests for health care facilities that see patients with tuberculosis. The amendment failed by a narrow vote. The ATS contacted Congress to express our opposition to the LaTourette/Owens amendment, noting that annual fit tests would add considerable costs for health care facilities while adding only questionable benefits in terms of preventing transmission of tuberculosis in those settings.

Rep. Randy Neugebauer (R-TX) offered an amendment to specifically eliminate funding for two grants issued by the National Institute of Mental Health. The first grant was titled “Perceived Regard and Relationship Resilience in Newlyweds� and the second was titled “Perceptual Bases of Visual Concepts in Pigeons.� Supporters of the amendment claimed these grants were frivolous, siphoning off money for more important issues. Noting that both grants received strong scores in the NIH peer review process, the opponents of amendment described it as unwarranted interference in the NIH peer review process. The ATS sent a letter to Congress opposing Congressional intervention in the NIH peer review process. The Neugebauer amendment passed the House.

PUBLICATIONS POLICY

House of Representatives Urges NIH to Expand Public Access Policy

The House Appropriations bill also includes report language urging the NIH to move forward with the NIH Public Access publications policy. As you may recall, the new NIH public access policy “requests but does not require� that all NIH supported manuscripts that have been accepted for publication in peer-review journals be posted on the NIH PubMed Central website. Authors of the NIH-supported manuscripts are encouraged to make these manuscripts available to the public as soon as possible – with a maximum permissible posting delay of 12 months from the date of publication.

The congressional report language states that Congress “is pleased that NIH is moving forward to implement its public access policy and is hopeful that the policy will be a first step toward providing free and timely access to published results of all NIH-funded biomedical research...The committee is concerned, however, that the final policy may not achieve these goals. For this reason, the committee directs the Office of the Director to submit to the committee by March 1, 2006 a comprehensive report on the progress achieved during the first eight months following the implementation of the new policy… Additionally, the committee is concerned that grant recipients may not fully understand the NIH policy and the steps required to post an article in PubMed Central. The committee, therefore, directs NIH to develop an aggressive education and outreach initiative aimed at informing grant recipients about the policy in an effort to maximize full and prompt participation.�

The House report language, while not having the force of law, does send a strong message from Congress to NIH regarding the public access policy. The call for an “aggressive education and outreach initiative� calls into the question the voluntary nature of the NIH Public Access policy. The ATS has several major concerns with the House report language and will work with key members of Congress to express our strong concerns with any expansion of the NIH public access policy.

RESEARCH

NIEHS Invites Public Comment for New Strategic Plan

On June 21, Dr. David Schwartz, Director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), announced the Institute’s plan to involve researchers and the community in formulating the NIEHS new strategic plan.

According to the NIEHS press release, the information gathered will be used to determine the most effective ways to study environmental toxins and human health. "NIEHS is uniquely poised to improve the health of this nation. We are not limited by any one organ, system or disease -- we can use the breadth of our knowledge on environmental exposures to understand and intervene in the disease process,� said Dr. Schwartz.

The strategy is expected to focus on four elements: basic research, human health and disease, global environmental health, and training. In addition, NIEHS is interested in responses to six critical questions:

  1. What are the disease processes and public health concerns that are relevant to environmental health sciences?
  2. How can environmental health sciences be used to understand how biological systems work, why some individuals are more susceptible to disease, or why individuals with the same disease may have very different clinical outcomes?
  3. What are the major opportunities and challenges in global environmental health?
  4. What are the environmental exposures that need further consideration?
  5. What are the critical needs for training the next generation of scientists in environmental health?
  6. What technology and infrastructural changes are needed to fundamentally advance environmental health science?

Public comment is due by August 5, 2005. The NIEHS webpage to submit comments is http://www.niehs.nih.gov/external/plan2006/home.htm

ENVIRONMENT

Last Friday, June 24, the DC Circuit Court issued its ruling on the first of two legal challenges to EPA's proposed changes to the Clean Air Act New Source Review program (NSR).

Background

The NSR program requires power plants and other pollution emitting facilities to install pollution control devices any time they increase emissions when they modify the plant. The trigger for this requirement is the increase in emissions, not just the plant modification.

EPA proposed several changes to the NSR program that would have, in the opinion of the environmental health community, weakened the NSR program and allowed industry to make major renovations to plant without installing pollution control devices.

As you may recall, New York and thirteen other states sued the EPA to prevent the proposed change to the NSR program. The ATS entered an amicus brief in support of the case brought by the states.

Below is brief summary of key points of the court decision:

Industry Wins

10-Year Look Back - The court allowed the EPA to give pollution emitting facilities the ability to establish their pollution baseline by choosing any 24 consecutive months in the past 10 years. This allows facilities to choose their dirtiest period to establish their pollution baseline.

The ATS and others had argued this would allow facilities to hide actual emissions increases by choosing the most favorable baseline and therefore lead to an overall increase in emissions.

Plantwide Applicability Limits - The court allowed EPA to let pollution emitting facilities place a cap on overall facility emissions based on their most polluting 24-month period in the last decade.

Environmental Wins

Definition of Increased Emissions. In a critical victory for the environmental community and states, the court rejected a key industry argument that EPA had adopted to define what triggers clean up requirements under these rules. Industry had long argued the trigger should be when they increase their capacity --their ability to pollute. The court firmly rejected that argument in favor of our position that the trigger is how much they actually pollute, regardless of capacity.

Clean Unit Exemption - The court rejected the EPA proposal to grant facilities, who install a pollution control devices, a 10 year exemption from complying with future NSR requirements. Court found such a blanket exemption is not permissible under the Clean Air Act.

This is an important win for the environmental community.

Pollution Control Program - The court also rejected the EPA proposal to grant exemptions to facilities that lowered emissions of some criteria pollutants, but cause an increase in other pollutants.

Record Keeping - The court rejected the EPA proposal to allow facilities to not keep record regarding emission if they feel a change in the facility plant could not reasonably lead to a change in emissions. The court found the EPA failed to show how, absent such records, they can ensure compliance with NSR requirements.

The Court also admonished EPA to track these projects to see if emissions are actually reduced under the new rules, recognizing that EPA's decision was based on incomplete data.

Pending Case

The courts have not yet acted on the second part of the case which deals with the EPA proposal to establish a cost threshold for facility improvements, below which NSR provisions would not apply. The court had previously issued an injunction on this part of the case – preventing EPA from implementing the cost threshold rule. The fact that court issued an injunction on that part of rule is viewed as good news for the environmental community and bodes well for how the courts will view that part of the proposed EPA revisions to the NSR program.



Points of Contact

Gary Ewart Senior Director, Government Relations
Nuala Moore Senior Legislative Representative
Joe Kirby DC Office Administrator