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GOP Bill To Outlaw EPA 'Secret Science' That Is Not Transparent, Reproducible 618

Posted by timothy
from the as-if-it-were-that-simple dept.
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Fox News reports that Republican lawmakers in the House are pushing legislation that would prohibit the EPA from proposing new regulations based on science that is not transparent or not reproducible. The bill introduced by Rep. David Schweikert, R-Ariz., would bar the agency from proposing or finalizing rules without first disclosing all "scientific and technical information" relied on to support its proposed action. "Public policy should come from public data, not based on the whims of far-left environmental groups," says Schweikert. "For far too long, the EPA has approved regulations that have placed a crippling financial burden on economic growth in this country with no public evidence to justify their actions." The bill, dubbed the Secret Science Reform Act of 2014 (HR 4012), would prohibit the EPA's administrator from proposing or finalizing any rules unless he or she also discloses "all scientific and technical information" relied on by the agency in the regulations' development including all data, materials and computer models. According to Schweikert's press release a 2013 poll from the Institute of Energy Research found that 90 percent of Americans agree that studies and data used to make federal government decisions should be made public. "Provisions in the bill are consistent with the White House's scientific integrity policy, the President's Executive Order 13563, data access provisions of major scientific journals, the Bipartisan Policy Center and the recommendations of the Obama administration's top science advisors.""
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GOP Bill To Outlaw EPA 'Secret Science' That Is Not Transparent, Reproducible

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  • by Above (100351) on Saturday February 08, 2014 @09:54AM (#46195121)

    "For far too long, the EPA has approved regulations that have placed a crippling financial burden on economic growth in this country with no public evidence to justify their actions."

    That quote is not the same attitude that would come from someone who is looking for solid, reproducible science. I believe most of the people who are strong supporters of solid, transparent, reproducible science would actually say the EPA has been near toothless, not overbearing. For example West Virginia chemical spill that contaminated the Kanawha/Ohio/Mississippi and the drinking water for millions and yet the company was allowed to store the chemical right next to the river with nearly zero monitoring or oversight. Another would be fracking, for which there is ample evidence of ground water contamination, and it causing earthquakes, and yet "full speed ahead!".

    No, this is a bureaucratic trick, often used in Washington, so let's translate:

    • Transparent - prohibit the EPA's administrator from proposing or finalizing any rules unless he or she also discloses "all scientific and technical information" relied on by the agency. The only problem? Much of that data is not owned by the government. It's studies and reports made by private businesses and provided to the government. The government does not, in all cases, have the rights to republish. The standard being set is all, so if the EPA finds 10 studies on something, all of which agree it's very, very bad, but can only publish 9 out of 10, it's no go! You can imagine GOP friendly companies (like those run by the Koch brothers) would do studies and then prevent them from being published just to gum up the works.
    • Reproducible - In it's most benign form this is a delaying tactic. Perhaps everyone agrees on the science, but until it can be "reproduced" regulations can be delayed. There will be calls for private industry to reproduce findings when there is no (business) reason for them to do so, and then their lack of action will be used to gum up the works. However, in a more malignant form GOP friendly companies will do bad science on purpose, and attempt to question the validity of EPA findings. It's easy to imagine again 10 studies that all agree, and then right as the regulation comes to pass some bad science pseudo-report being released that calls into question the "reproducibility" of the science.

    The tactic is alive right in the promotion of the bill. The "Institute for Energy Research" [wikipedia.org] turns out to be a lobbying group run by an ex-Enron director, funded by ExxonMobile and the Koch brothers. As a result I think you can see the sort of transparent, reproducible "science" that will be in play here, starting with the "2013 poll from the Institute of Energy Research" used to back up this bill.

  • by bruce_the_moose (621423) on Saturday February 08, 2014 @09:56AM (#46195131)
    This idiot congress critter has absolutely no idea how EPA regulations get written.

    "Public policy should come from public data, not based on the whims of far-left environmental groups," says Schweikert.

    He assumes the regulations get written the same way financial industry and other regulations get written, by think tanksand lobbyists (ALEC anyone?). My sister, an environmental engineer spends a great amount of time in the field collecting samples and then coming back to the lab and documenting the science that goes into developing regulations for the EPA.

    "For far too long, the EPA has approved regulations that have placed a crippling financial burden on economic growth in this country with no public evidence to justify their actions."

    Which is pure, verifiable bullshit. His agenda couldn't be more plain. Like laws introduced to prohibit public funding of abortions, which is already prohibited, it's more about grandstanding and politics than anything having to do with transparency, economics, or in absolutely last place, the environment.

  • by Oligonicella (659917) on Saturday February 08, 2014 @09:59AM (#46195147)
    The entire point of science is reproducibility.
  • Re:wait what? (Score:5, Informative)

    by penix1 (722987) on Saturday February 08, 2014 @10:08AM (#46195201) Homepage

    Maybe all these dick-cheeses that are trying to hamstring the EPA should spend a couple weeks in Charleston, WV during the height of the chemical spill. Maybe we should ship them all the bottled water from the Elk River for their enjoyment.

    Sorry for the snark but having lived through this ongoing drama and having to bird bath for a week using bottled water because these asshats prefer money over health is getting to me.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 08, 2014 @10:35AM (#46195349)

    There is a lot of science that is easily reproducible that cannot be taught in a school science classroom because it came from a "creationist". Like you, I demand that ALL science should be uncensored.

    No, there is a lot of bullshit being passed off as science by creationists which can't be taught in school science because IT'S NOT FUCKING SCIENCE.

    Creationism is NOT science, it makes no predictions which can be tested, and it by design is NOT falsifiable.

    Name one non-trivial and reproducible hypothesis given in creationism which actually is 'scientific' -- you can't, because there aren't any.

    Creationism boils down to "if God created the world, then it would look exactly like it does now, and as evidence for this, we have folklore and the observation that the world looks exactly as we see it".

    You creationism in the context of science is semantic bafflegab, but otherwise meaningless in a scientific context. It's mostly an attempt to co-opt the language of science without understanding what it actually means.

  • by pepty (1976012) on Saturday February 08, 2014 @11:05AM (#46195557)

    What surprises me about this story is that I thought all that data had to be disclosed already. How stupid is it that we have regulations based on data that's isn't made available for independent verification?

    They have been asking that the private medical data of everyone whose medical records were used during the evaluation of soot and particulate rules for the Clean Air Act be made public. The authors of those studies don't have the authority to release that data, neither does the EPA. Though I'm certain the GOP would love to berate the EPA publicly for betraying patient confidentiality if they did disclose that information

    http://www.epw.senate.gov/publ... [senate.gov]

  • by BonThomme (239873) on Saturday February 08, 2014 @11:10AM (#46195577) Homepage

    Fun Fact: Jesus wasn't born on Christmas day!

  • by pepty (1976012) on Saturday February 08, 2014 @11:18AM (#46195623)

    It would put a stop to basing EPA laws on human medical science, since you would have to get everyone whose medical records were used in the study (or their estates) to make their records public. That's what the GOP is asking for:

    http://www.epw.senate.gov/publ... [senate.gov]

  • by belthize (990217) on Saturday February 08, 2014 @11:22AM (#46195653)

    Couple of points.

    1) EPA has no jurisdiction for mold remediation in your house so there are no regulations about how you can go about cleaning it.
    2) The EPA does have a mandate to help you and they did: http://www.epa.gov/mold/moldgu... [epa.gov] That's the first hit on googling: EPA mold remediation residential, and clicking 'who should do the cleanup'. They clearly state for less than 10 sq feet do it yourself, don't pay anyone.

    You didn't even need to pay the person you eventually paid, let alone the person scamming you. Don't blame the EPA or science for your lack of awareness or ability to spend 20 seconds using google. They did what they should to help you.

  • by Mr. Slippery (47854) <`ten.suomafni' `ta' `smt'> on Saturday February 08, 2014 @11:24AM (#46195669) Homepage

    How stupid is it that we have regulations based on data that's isn't made available for independent verification?

    Almost all of it is in fact available [realclimate.org], so this is just more GOP BS.

    A small part of it is under copyright protection or other NDA -- and that's dumb, and the cure is copyright reform that frees all publicly funded research, and a research funding process that doesn't rely on making researchers cover costs by selling their data. Copyright corrupts science. But Congress isn't doing that, and we can't make other countries do it.

    As the University of East Anglias CRU explains [uea.ac.uk],

    Since the early 1980s, some NMSs, other organizations and individual scientists have given or sold us (see Hulme, 1994, for a summary of European data collection efforts) additional data for inclusion in the gridded datasets, often on the understanding that the data are only used for academic purposes with the full permission of the NMSs, organizations and scientists and the original station data are not passed onto third parties. Below we list the agreements that we still hold....Some date back at least 20 years. Additional agreements are unwritten and relate to partnerships we've made with scientists around the world and visitors to the CRU over this period. In some of the examples given, it can be clearly seen that our requests for data from NMSs have always stated that we would not make the data available to third parties....The inability of some agencies to release climate data held is not uncommon in climate science. The Dutch Met Service (KNMI) run the European Climate Assessment and Dataset (ECA&D, http://eca.knmi.nl/ [eca.knmi.nl]) project. They are able to use much data in their numerous analyses, but they cannot make all the original daily station temperature and precipitation series available because of restrictions imposed by some of the data providers...The problem is a generic issue and arises from the need of many NMSs to be or aim to be cost neutral (i.e. sell the data to recoup the costs of making observations and preparing the data).

    We receive numerous requests for these station data...These data are not ours to provide without the full permission of the relevant NMSs, organizations and scientists.

    And some of the data has been lost to bit rot, like a lot of computer data from decades ago. No surprise.

    But the idea that there's some dark secret that a cabal of climate scientists are hiding is the usual denialist gibberish.

  • by cold fjord (826450) on Saturday February 08, 2014 @12:51PM (#46196329)

    Is this (below) what you are talking about? It doesn't look like they are looking for private medical records but rather the diagnostic codes that wouldn't be personally identifiable in and of themselves. Either that or they are instructing EPA to code the PHI prior to release, which would render it safe to release. ( See PHI, and De-identification [hhs.gov] ) The US Congress is the one that makes the rules, and it appears that release of it may be mandated already. The EPA isn't complying. The EPA is doing making its rules both in secret and based on secrets, and I thought we were against that on Slashdot.

    3. Request: That underlying data used to promulgate Clean Air Act rules be made public so the public can independently examine cost/benefit and other issues. That the EPA release a full set of data files for the American Cancer Society Study; the Harvard Six Cities Study; HEI/Krewski et al. 2009; Laden et al. 2006; Lepeule 2012; and Jerrett 2009. This request includes the coding of Personal Health Information (PHI).

    Background: Since 1997, Congress has requested the underlying data for particulate matter studies (PM2.5) be made available to Congress and the public. Then-EPA Administrator Carol Browner went back and forth with Members regarding Congressional and public access to the underlying data, citing legitimate scientific inquiry qualifications and confidentiality concerns. In response to the continued reticence by EPA to publicly release data, the Shelby amendment, a rider to the FY1999 Omnibus Appropriations Act (P.L. 105-277), mandated that OMB amend Circular A-110 to require federal agencies to ensure that "all data produced under a [federally funded] award be made available to the public through the procedures established under FOIA."

    A March 4, 2013, letter to EPA from Ranking Member Vitter and House Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith requested the underlying data from additional long term cohort studies that rely on updates from the Harvard Six Cities Study and the American Cancer Society Study, including: Krewski e. al. (2009); Pope et al. (2002); Pope et al. (2009); Krewski et al. (2000); Laden et. al (2006); and Lepeule et al. (2012). This letter repeated multiple communications from Congress requesting the release of the underlying data which are the basis for nearly all the health and benefit claims from CAA rulemaking in this Administration.

    Status: Wholly unresponsive.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 08, 2014 @01:22PM (#46196551)

    Junk science is a right-wing global warning denial hack rag. I would put that page right up there with a "creation science" web page...or, for that matter, a web page trying to argue the earth is flat. Slashdot has really gone to the toilet. We used to have famous people posting here. Now we just have a bunch of right wing nutcases moderating up Republican pseudoscience.

  • by Curunir_wolf (588405) on Saturday February 08, 2014 @01:42PM (#46196709) Homepage Journal

    When an agencny like the EPA takes action the science is based upon compilations of complex studies and agreement among scientists.

    No, it's not. You can find example [humanevents.com] after example [crimeinthesuites.com] of the EPA and other agencies falsifying information and distorting data to get to a political-based outcome. Another famous one was the snail darter population issue in California. The EPA did not go after the problem (agricultural runoff), but decided to treat the symptom by cutting off water to the small farmers in the San Joaquin valley so that the corporate farms on the SF Bay watershed could continue to pollute.

    To ignore these abuses is to submit to tyranny.

  • by Curunir_wolf (588405) on Saturday February 08, 2014 @02:52PM (#46197271) Homepage Journal

    And I call it "straw man argument" when someone cites bureaucratic foibles with what are demonstrably nonexistent examples.

    Kindly cite the cases of "navigable waters" including "any puddle that lasts more than 24 hours". The Supreme Court guidelines are fascinating, and seem to be extensible to include waterways large enough to handle a canoe, depending on whether it's connected to another waterway. But they're workable, and discharging the waste into a creek that _feeds into_ a lake or ocean could certainly make such discharges relevant to public safety.

    Really? The EPA has been abusing people like this for years, but one couple finally stood up to them. I can't believe you've never heard of cases like Sackett v. EPA [usatoday.com]. Willful ignorance?

  • by riverat1 (1048260) on Saturday February 08, 2014 @03:33PM (#46197579)

    "you can't make a copy" - Hell, you can't even get a copy of the data or algorithms.

    Sure you can if you're not too lazy to look for it. Here's a good place to start. [realclimate.org]

  • by andydread (758754) on Saturday February 08, 2014 @03:59PM (#46197755)
    What you are linking to is a partisan political press release from oil industry frontman Lamar Smith [opensecrets.org] of SOPA/PIPA fame. Remember him? Yep he's the sponsor of SOPA/PIPA and big hollywood has him in their pocket too. He has been against the clean air act and have been trying to shutdown the EPA for a while now. I cannot take his words as gospel so is he lying? maybe. who knows. He's a politician in the pocket of big oil and big media/hollywood. Take a look at his top industry donors [opensecrets.org] Says a whole lot.
  • by Stephan Schulz (948) <schulz@informatik.tu-muenchen.de> on Saturday February 08, 2014 @07:49PM (#46199083) Homepage

    The proposed law does not say WHO reproduces it, merely that someone MUST be able to reproduce the results. If the EPA can point to another, independent, study which reproduces the results of the first study, it meets those qualifications.

    Scientific studies often cost significant amounts of money to produce - at least, they cost significant amounts of researcher time. Unless a study is extremely controversial or you expect to get very different results, few scientists will spend the time. There is minimal new knowledge to be gained, most journals rarely publish papers on successful reproductions, and a CV that says "I did the same as Williams, the same as Jones, and the same as Mayer, and got the same results in each case" is not a career starter for a scientist, either.

    Indeed, most studies that can be reproduced can be reproduced from the published papers. It's just hard work and expensive, which is why it's rarely done. Demanding reproducibility is fine, but demanding actual reproduction (as proof of reproducibility) would kill most science-based initiatives cold. Note, in particular, another law proposed by Lamar Smith [sciencemag.org] that would allow NSF funding only for research that is "not duplicative of other research projects being funded by the Foundation or other Federal science agencies". Take the two together, and you have a requirement for reproduction, but deny funding to do the reproduction. Ooops - how convenient.

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