April 29, 2015

Senators Vote To Block EPA’s Use Of ‘Secret Science’

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April 28th, 2015 | The Hill | Timothy Cama

On Tuesday, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee voted in favor of a bill that would prohibit the Environmental Protection Agency from using so-called ‘secret science’ when crafting regulations, The Hill reported. Under the Secret Science Reform Act, passed by the House of Representatives in March, the EPA would be limiting to using scientific studies whose detailed results are posted publicly online.

Wyoming Senator John Barrasso, the bill’s sponsor (fellow Wyoming Senator Mike Enzi is one of the co-sponsors), spoke in its favor at a committee hearing:

“EPA has a long history of relying on science that was not created by the agency itself. This often means that the science is not available to the public, and therefore cannot be reproduced and verified. What this bill is trying to accomplish is to make sure that we strengthen the scientific information the EPA uses to make regulations, guidance and assessments.”

At first glance, this makes sense, right? The EPA should obviously use science when making rules to protect the environment and public health. But it’s not that simple. The agency relies heavily on research that is proprietary or confidential because it is health-related or otherwise restricted, Timothy Cama wrote. Congressional Democrats and environmental activists have strongly opposed the Secret Science Reform Act arguing that it would deny the EPA access to the best available science.

The Hill reported that Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) said the bill is “insane. It’s just a joke.” Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) called it “laughable.”

On the day before the vote, a group of Senate Democrats sent a letter to Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, asking him to withdraw the bill because there has not yet been a legislative hearing, and there should be for such a controversial piece of legislation.

The Secret Science Reform Act had previously been held up in the Democratic-controlled Senate, until the GOP took the majority in last year’s mid-term elections. Senator Barrasso, the sponsor of the bill, and Senator Inhofe, chair of the committee are both extremely skeptical of the EPA, and have vowed to fight the agency’s Clean Power Plan.

The Secret Science Reform Act will now go to a full vote in the Senate. President Obama has said if the bill makes it to his desk, he would veto it.

  • john

    Oh dear I think this bills using the term ” secret science” says it all.

  • g kelly

    The real test should be whether or not the “science” has withstood the process of peer-scrutiny that is routinely a part of publication of scientific articles. And of course, that means that whatever proprietary rights attached to the underlying research have been protected, and the resulting “secrets” revealed by publication. It sounds like there should be some middle ground for a meeting of the minds on this issue, but its pretty hard to have a reasonable discussion if the EPA can’t reveal the basis for its regulatory decisions.