Last week Members of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology held a hearing to discuss a bill that would require the Environmental Protection Agency make all of its data and methods publicly available for independent scrutiny prior to issuing new regulations. This is how Representative David Schweikert (R-AZ) describes the bill:
“The Secret Science Reform Act ends costly EPA rulemaking from happening behind closed doors and out of public view,” said Chairman Schweikert. “Public policy should come from public data, not based on the whims of far-left environmental groups. For far too long, the EPA has approved regulations that have placed a crippling financial burden on economic growth in this country with no public evidence to justify their actions. This common-sense legislation forces the EPA to be transparent and accountable with their findings.”
Now obviously there is a bit of flair here, but what he’s saying is accurate. Over the years there have been numerous, expensive regulations issues by the EPA which has refused to release the underlying data or models used to justify the regulations. Everyone like transparency and replicability, right? See how The Huffington Post describes the bill, “House Republicans Aim To Limit Power of Environmental Protection Agency.”
While the bill’s language would not require the EPA to wait until its research was verified by an outside source to make recommendations, opponents say the bill’s requirements are murky.
“The bill attacks the mainstays of scientific investigation,” wrote Rep. Mike Honda (D-Calif.) in an email to The Huffington Post. “It would strip away the EPA’s authority to make any rules due to the stringency of the data disclosure requirements.
“The peer review process is the foundation of science inquiry in our society, and is a trusted evaluation of scientific evidence around the world,” he added. “This legislation attempts to dictate how the scientific method is employed,” he added. “The Secret Science Reform Act is an attempt by climate change deniers to stop the EPA from doing its job.”
The idea that making data and models available to the public “attacks the mainstays of scientific investigation” is embarrassingly backwards. Apparently the mainstays of scientific investigation involve sending information around to your scientist pals who share your ideological commitments rather than releasing the data to the public allowing anyone to take a look at it. If the EPA is hiring consultants or independent scientists to conduct these analyses, then one condition of this employment must require that the finished product be made to the public.
Of course, this bill will go nowhere. And Democrats who support the overall mission of the EPA will have no interest in seeing legislation like this, for fear that the emperor might be seen without its clothes.
If interested, the Dean of the School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University testified in favor of the bill. You can read his testimony here.