Skip to main content

Climate change skeptics propose bill to make EPA release the data behind its policies

Climate change skeptics propose bill to make EPA release the data behind its policies

Share this story

A coalition of House Republicans have introduced a bill that would require the Environmental Protection Agency to publicly release all research related to a policy before implementing it. The Secret Science Reform Act of 2014 is meant to allow independent scientists to verify the data behind environmental regulations, creating more accountability for the agency. It's also a way for the agency's opponents to create more barriers to regulation and attempt to discredit environmental policies. "Virtually every regulation proposed by the Obama administration has been justified by nontransparent data and unverifiable claims," writes House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology Chair Lamar Smith (R-TX), who is also a sponsor of the bill. "The American people foot the bill for EPA's costly regulations, and they have a right to see the underlying science."

The bill is short, but it's also fairly broad. Before proposing or finalizing any regulation, hazard assessment, standard, or piece of guidance, the EPA must "specifically identify" each piece of scientific or technical information that it's relying on, then make that data public in a way that lets outsiders independently analyze and attempt to reproduce the results. That technical information includes not only data points but analysis and "detailed descriptions" of how to access and use the information. Obama has already told agencies to make any federally funded research freely available to the public, and it's not clear how dramatically this would change current practice; the EPA did not immediately return a request for comment.

Obama's EPA has made mitigating and preparing for climate change a priority, and it's done so in part by placing new regulations on things like coal plants. This hasn't sat well with Congress members who are both opposed to environmental regulation generally and dubious that climate change even exists or is caused by humans. Though it's not raised explicitly in the bill, Smith has expressed skepticism over the issue, and his fellow chair and co-sponsor David Schweikert (R-AZ) says his bill is necessary to stop the EPA from making policy based on "the whims of far-left environmental groups." The agency, he says, has created regulations that "placed a crippling financial burden on economic growth in this country with no public evidence to justify their actions."