Even when Democrats controlled the Senate, Republicans found ways to put limits on the Environmental Protection Agency.
As the Center for Public Integrity reported last week, Republicans used the appropriations process to make it harder for the EPA to evaluate the dangers posed by toxic chemicals. Without the science, the EPA cannot enact new regulations to protect the public.
Now, with the GOP takeover of the Senate, the EPA faces the prospect of several bills passing both chambers of Congress that would make it even more difficult for the agency to issue rules. This time the White House is threatening to veto the bills.
Here’s a rundown of the pending legislation:
Secret Science Reform Act
H.R. 4012, which passed the House late last year, would prohibit the EPA from taking any action that relied on scientific research unless all the data were published online.
Rep. Lamar Smith, the Texas Republican who chairs the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, said at a hearing last summer that the public has a right to see the underlying data the EPA relies on.
“If the EPA has nothing to hide, and if their data really justifies their regulations, why not make the information public? Is it because the EPA knows the data won’t justify their regulations?
But the EPA rarely does its own scientific studies. It relies instead on research published in hundreds of peer-reviewed scientific journals. The agency usually doesn’t have all the underlying data to share.
EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy fired back at House Republicans in a speech last year, saying, “If EPA is being accused of ‘secret science’ because we rely on real scientists to conduct research, and independent scientists to peer review it, and scientists who've spent a lifetime studying the science to reproduce it -- then so be it!”
Environmental groups argue the bill “favors industry interests and undermines the EPA’s scientifically rigorous and comprehensive decision-making process. This bill, put simply, is an attempt to tie the hands of EPA, and nothing more.”
The White House says it would welcome legislation that increases transparency at the EPA but threatens to veto this bill, saying it “would impose arbitrary, unnecessary, and expensive requirements that would seriously impede the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to use science to protect public health and the environment.