Diary

Obama threatens to veto science at the E.P.A.

If someone from the government  were to say to you, sorry you can’t run your business the way you have been , because I have proof it would harm the environment.

Would you want to know about the “Proof” ?

If the same person then handed you a conclusion, with no data, no disclosure of methods and what amounts to nothing more than a long argument with no way to verify or dispute it.

How would you react ?

I think it’s safe to say anyone would find this unreasonable in the extreme.

Well that’s the way things have been done at the E.P.A. . That is how they have been shutting down business, stopping people from building homes, and stifling infrastructure construction across the country.

Thankfully congress has finally stood up on its hind legs and said, yes this unacceptable, If you are going to impose the weight of the federal government on people based on data, they at least have the right to see the data and know how the conclusions were arrived at.

https://www.congress.gov/bill/113th-congress/house-bill/4012

What does bill require ?

Secret Science Reform Act of 2014 – Amends the Environmental Research, Development, and Demonstration Authorization Act of 1978 to prohibit the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from proposing, finalizing, or disseminating a covered action unless all scientific and technical information relied on to support such action is specifically identified and publicly available online in a manner sufficient for independent analysis and substantial reproduction of research results. Includes as a covered action a risk, exposure, or hazard assessment, criteria document, standard, limitation, regulation, regulatory impact analysis, or guidance.

What an incredibly reasonable piece of legislation this is.  Doesn’t look like anyone could object to this. The E.P.A. uses “Scientific” studies. If you are doing science you are expected to make your data available (Well excepting climate scientists). It is expected that your work should be reproducible, that is the hallmark of science after all, it works for everyone not just people at the E.P.A. and it should be able to withstand scrutiny.

You’d think there could be no objection to these requirements.  Well apparently the President doesn’t  feel these requirements are all that reasonable and the E.P.A. doesn’t either.

http://news.sciencemag.org/environment/2015/03/u-s-house-prepares-vote-controversial-epa-secret-science-and-science-advice

The White House has called it ” A thinly veiled attempt to weaken future regulations” . Looks true enough, I mean having to prove that your regulation does what you say it will must be quite a burden, almost as bad as having to comply with the regulation. Also, I imagine if you have gotten used to doing what you want without having the people question you it might very well knock you back a bit.

The E.P.A. on the other had is a little more adept, in its objections and tries to pull the Washington Monument Syndrome. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Washington_Monument_Syndrome, claiming that the bill would make it to expensive use the studies they currently do. Well maybe not that adept because quite a few people would say that is a good thing.

Lets look at this and the burdens the bill imposes.

1. The E.P.A. would have to provide the source code, models and methods used in the studies. Well any code they developed is already required to be in the public domain by federal law. So there shouldn’t be any additional cost here.

2. They have to provide the data the studies use to reach their conclusions. They seem to have a legitimate complaint here. People suffering from illnesses certainly have a right to expect privacy and they wouldn’t want to participate if their information got out.  But wait a minute, there is this law called HIPPA http://www.hhs.gov/ocr/privacy/hipaa/understanding/special/research/ . Which states

.A covered entity may always use or disclose for research purposes health information which has been de-identified (in accordance with 45 CFR 164.502(d), and 164.514(a)-(c) of the Rule) without regard to the provisions below.

So it turns out if you look at it, this law isn’t just about making the E.P.A. act the way most people thought it was acting, it’s actually about making certain they comply with the laws of the land, the same as everyone else.