Ending EPA’s practice of using “secret science” and requiring the agency to make public data that’s basis of its regulations shouldn’t be the nexus of a harsh, partisan fight. But that’s what it became in the Senate Environmental and Public Works Committee.
The committee approved a bill that would requiring EPA to make public the scientific and technical data it relies on when writing regulations.
While that requirement seems like a bare minimum for government agencies writing new regulations, Senator Barbara Boxer (D-Calf.) said, “We’re appalled at this bill and we are really going to make it hard to get this bill to the floor.”
What got Sen. Boxer and her fellow Democrats on the committee so upset?
Apparently, there’s too much transparency in the bill.
The bill requires two things:
- EPA has to use the best science available to inform its regulatory standards, and
- The data and analysis must be available to the public so others can examine its quality, offer additional analysis, or replicate the results.
This is how the scientific process works. Data is collected, analyzed, and published. Other scientists and experts then look at the data and try to replicate the results.
But EPA has a different process. A handful of “insider” scientists--many of whom are recipients of EPA funding and who sit on EPA’s Science Advisory Board--are the only researchers who have been able to get access to much of the data upon which EPA has based all of their fine particulate matter benefits estimates.
Those benefits estimates account for over 97% of the benefits that EPA has used to justify its regulations since 2000.
Senator Boxer and opponents of the bill are working to maintain the status quo by fighting to keep a bill that promotes openness and transparency from getting a vote. The White House has already promised to veto the bill, saying it is too burdensome and costly for EPA to implement. (Tell that to the people who have to live under EPA's many costly regulations.)
On one side you have the business community supporting the need for regulations based on openness, transparency, and a verifiable scientific process. On the other, you have a defense of scientific opacity that breeds public distrust.
As the infographic below shows, along with accountability and public input, regulation needs to be based on sound science the public can trust. It’s unfortunate that Sen. Boxer and her allies are going to the mat over this.