Secret science sounds like Victor Frankenstein is at work again. But it is a bill that passed in the House of Representatives in Washington, D.C. last week. This bill is as bad as it sounds, and will hinder government and the EPA from issuing regulations against polluters.
The Secret Science Reform Act was pushed through the House by Republicans and was supported by surprise, surprise! industry groups such as the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers.
The act prevents the issuing of regulations from the EPA based on data that has not been made public.
Why object? “Shouldn’t we all get a chance to pick over the data? The devil is in the detail”, according to a letter sent to the House last week by major science institutions, headed by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, New Scientist wrote on their website.
Rep David Schweikert talks about the bill:
The bill would prohibit the Environmental Protection Agency from issuing regulations “based upon science that is not transparent or reproducible”—that’s the “secret science.” Rules must reflect information that is available “in a manner that is sufficient for independent analysis and substantial reproduction of research results,” Bloomberg said on its website.
“The EPA’s regulatory process is both hidden and flawed,” Representative Lamar Smith, chairman of the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, said in a news release this summer. “If the EPA has nothing to hide, and if their data really justifies their regulations, why not make the information public?”
Today, anyone with an Internet connection, including members of Congress, can already look up which studies the agency relies on for crafting new rules. But in many cases, it cannot legally publish raw data. This bill would require the agency to make all data public before creating new rules while blocking the agency from disclosing private medical data, trade secrets, and industry data, Roll Call said on their website.
Rep Bill Foster speaks out against the Secret Science Act:
The EPA Science Advisory Board Reform Act was passed at the same time. Science said on their website: “This bill would overhaul rules regarding the membership and meetings of EPA’s Science Advisory Board (SAB). That federally chartered body of scientists, economists, and other scholars reviews agency risk assessments and scientific documents, and advises the agency on other matters. The EPA Science Advisory Board Reform Act (H.R. 1422), sponsored by Representative Chris Stewart (R–UT), would require the agency to make SAB’s membership “fairly balanced,” add more public comment opportunities, require more acknowledgment of dissenting panelists’ views, bar panelists from discussing their own research, and limit nonscientific advice from the panel. “Ensuring that the [board] is balanced and transparent will help instill more confidence in the EPA’s decision making process,” Stewart said in a statement.
Rep Suzanne Bonamici speaks out against the EPA Science Advisory Board Reform Act:
“The US Congress is carrying out a sneak attack on science,” says Andrew Rosenberg, director of the Center for Science and Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists in Cambridge, Massachusetts. “The science community should be up in arms about these actions—but so should anyone who cares about using the best science to make good public policy.”
President Obama’s office said earlier this month that if the bills were passed, his senior advisers would advise the president to veto both. It said that the Secret Science Reform Act could “impede EPA’s reliance on the best available science.”
Rep Randy Weber speaks for the EPA Science Advisory Board Reform Act:
“The bill would impose arbitrary, unnecessary, and expensive requirements that would seriously impede the Environmental Protection Agency’s [EPA’s] ability to use science to protect public health and the environment, as required under an array of environmental laws,” it said.
I’m sure we all want rules based on the best science, by undermining the science advisory process it’s just unconscionable. The bills won’t promote good science or public health, as they hinder the entire process.