Last week, the House of Representatives passed a bill that would limit the type of scientific research available to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for use when crafting regulations. The bill, named the Secret Science Reform Act of 2014, passed by a vote of 237-190. The purpose of the bill is to restrict the EPA from using any science that is “hidden and flawed”, according to the bill sponsor, Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX).
Colleagues of Smith have stated that the bill is necessary to increase transparency at the EPA so the public can independently check the EPA’s basis for creating and issuing regulations. On the surface, it sounds reasonable, however the majority of the scientific community have taken issue with the bill. The main reason being that the bill does not comprehend why some scientific data is hidden and confidential, which is to protect the privacy of the voluntary test subjects, trade secrets, and industry data.
“Some of the best real-world public health research, which relies on patient data like hospital admissions, would be excluded from consideration because personal data could not, and should not, be made public,” wrote Union of Concerned Scientists director Andrew Rosenberg in Roll Call. “Demanding public release of full raw data the agency cannot legally disclose is simply a way to accuse the agency of hiding something when it has nothing to hide.”
Republicans claim that the bill wouldn’t require personal data or trade secrets to be made public. The White House disagrees, stating in a memo that this bill would cost the EPA between $10,000 and $30,000 per study to meet the goals of the bill. The EPA uses more than 50,000 scientific studies per year; the math speaks for itself.
“In short, the bill would undermine EPA’s ability to protect the health of Americans, would impose expensive new mandates on EPA, and could impose substantial litigation costs on the Federal government,” the White House memo reads. “It also could impede EPA’s reliance on the best available science.”
The White House has stated that if the bill is passed by the Senate, President Obama’s advisers would recommend a veto.