A policy’s gravity is roughly proportional to the hyperbole it engenders from its opponents. By this admittedly loose metric, H.R. 4012, the Secret Science Reform Act, is of great import. Consider the following charges leveled by House of Representatives Science, Space, & Technology Committee Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson in her opening remarks during a committee markup of the bill on Tuesday:
- The Secret Science Reform Act is a “pernicious assault” on EPA
- It is “anti-science”
- H.R. 4012 is an “insidious attack” on the agency.
Ranking Member Johnson’s purple tone is echoed by a chorus of special interests, including all of the major green groups and also the fake white coats at both the American Lung Association and the Union of Concerned Scientists.
The essence of this “pernicious assault” on EPA is aptly summed by the bill’s sponsor, Rep. David Schweikert: “public data for public policy.” In fact, EPA justifies billion dollar regulations on putative health benefits derivative of epidemiological research that the agency won’t share with the public. Instead, the agency will share the underlying data only with parties sympathetic to the agency’s regulatory agenda. Hence, the Secret Science Reform Act, which would make “publicly available” all “scientific and technical information relied on to support” a given regulation. Again, the simple purpose is public data for public policy.
Quite contrary to what the ranking member would have the public believe, the notion of “secret science” isn’t some wild-eyed Tea Party fantasy. Recently, Committee Chairman Lamar Smith received a letter in support of H.R. 4012 from 80 scientists, including George Wolff, former chair of the EPA’s Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee in the Clinton administration and Forrest J. Remick, former commissioner of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission in the George H.W. Bush administration. They wrote that the bill would “make the agency’s regulations more accountable, credible, and enforceable.”
The bill passed out of Committee on a party line 17-13 vote. I attended the markup and what follows are some scattered thoughts: [click to continue…]