The House of Representatives voted 237-190 on Wednesday afternoon to pass a bill that would limit the type of scientific research the Environmental Protection Agency can use when crafting regulations to protect the environment and public health.
Dubbed the “Secret Science Reform Act of 2014,” the bill’s intention is to increase transparency at the EPA by making it so the agency can’t use any science that is “hidden and flawed,” according to bill sponsor Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX). Smith and his Republican colleagues say the bill is needed so that the public can independently check the EPA’s basis for issuing regulations limiting air and water pollutants from various sources.
While the bill may sound noble on its face, scientists overwhelmingly take issue with its tenets. For one, they say, the bill does not understand why some scientific data is confidential — namely because much of it uses private medical data of voluntary test subjects to test pollutants, while some contains 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.”