In The News
House passes bill to ban EPA 'secret science'
By Timothy Cama and Cristina Marcos
The House passed a bill Wednesday that aims to increase public scrutiny of the scientific research behind Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations.
Passed 241-175, the GOP bill would prohibit the EPA from using so-called “secret science” to justify its rules.
Instead, the EPA would have to make public the details of all the research upon which its rules rely. If a rule’s science isn’t made public, the EPA would not be allowed to write the rule.
The legislation is sponsored by Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), House Science, Space and Technology Committee chairman. It answers a common GOP claim that the EPA uses “secret science” that prevents the public and the agency’s opponents from criticizing research.
At a Tuesday hearing on the EPA’s proposal to tighten ozone standards, Smith said the rulemaking provides a typical example of why his bill is necessary.
“We should all be concerned about the process the EPA used to reach their conclusions,” Smith said. “During earlier stages of this rulemaking, EPA relied on studies with data that was not publicly available. This raises a lot of suspicions.”
Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-Okla.) compared requiring the EPA to release its science to his young children having to show their work on assignments.
"Is it too much to ask the EPA to follow the same guidelines I give my children in elementary school? Show your work," Bridenstine said.
But Democrats argue that the bill would force the EPA to release confidential personal information about the participants in scientific research.
"What my Republican colleagues are calling secrets [is] actually confidential, personal health information from research study participants," said Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas), the top Democrat on the House Science, Space and Technology Committee. "Disclosure of this kind of information would be a major breach of faith with hundreds of thousands of research participants who volunteered to enter these types of public health studies."
The House rejected, 184-231, an amendment offered by Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-Mass.) that would allow the EPA to rely upon peer-reviewed scientific publications even if they are based on data prohibited from public disclosure.
"The goal of this amendment is to make sure they are able to rely on the most sound, reliable information available," Kennedy said.
But Smith said the proposal would still limit public disclosure of scientific data.
"Peer review alone will not give the American people all the facts," Smith said.
The legislation passed a day after the House approved another bill that would restrict how the EPA uses scientific research for its regulations.
That bill would reform the makeup and activities of the EPA’s Science Advisory Board, through new quotas on its members, stricter conflict-of-interest standards and a ban on lobbyists.
The House passed both bills last year, but the Senate did not take them up.
The White House has threatened to veto both EPA science bills, saying they would put unworkable new restrictions on the agency’s ability to fulfill its duty to protect the environment and public health through regulations.
The "secret science" bill, the White House said, would “impose arbitrary, unnecessary, and expensive requirements” upon the EPA.