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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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  • "Not Reproduclibe" (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 08, 2014 @09:34AM (#46194993)

    Sorry EPA, but the studies sponsored by the [insert industry] industry couldn't reproduce the findings.

    You cannot regulate them.

    This will be one GIANT loophole for industry.

    • by TheSpoom (715771) <slashdotNO@SPAMuberm00.net> on Saturday February 08, 2014 @09:40AM (#46195029) Homepage Journal

      That's the point. I bet the open access requirement is also harder to reach than it seems.

      Another bill that looks helpful on the surface but really just supports their agenda.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 08, 2014 @11:03AM (#46195549)

        Another bill that looks helpful on the surface but really just supports their agenda.

        AKA every bill ever?

        It sickens me that my generation and the one after it have latched on to the idea that one team is 'evil' and the other team are 'the good guys', when it is painfully obvious that both teams want the same thing, to be the only two teams in power. neither of them are the good guys.

        no matter what a bill says, it -must- be evil, because it's being introduced by 'those other guys', the evil party.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by gottabeme (590848)

        Are you advocating the opposite, that the EPA should be able to issue regulations based on non-science?!

        Oh, this bill was sponsored by Republican candidates, so it must be bad, because we all know that all Republicans are anti-science, bloodletting phrenologists. And, of course, Obama and the Democrates are all open and transparent and honest! Obama's EPA would never do anything that wasn't scientifically reproducible and valid, even if they won't show us how they did it!

        • by Bite The Pillow (3087109) on Saturday February 08, 2014 @01:15PM (#46196517)

          There is something between no science and public science, and that's what we currently have. The public, not just Congress, would need access to the data models used. Not just the papers, which goes beyond what we have today, but the backing data and the model.
          Open access journal would not be enough.

          We can agree that this is an improvement.

          However, Congress is not held to the same standard. There is no requirement to put public funded research in the public domain. There is nothing in this bill except a wish for a scientific community that does not exist.

          And because it does not exist, no Administration office will be able to make the regulations that Congress delegated responsibility for. Dumping asbestos in a lake? We need an open access study that says asbestos is still harmful when wet.

          I'm being serious, go back and read the bill. Being obvious or accepted or well known is not enough. Citing a meta-study is not enough. A report from Nature or Science is not enough. A reviewed and published study in a respectable journal is not enough.

          All of these are pro-science, but they fall short of this bill. Argue for open science all you want, but here is why it doesn't matter:

          This bill, on the surface, asks for what makes the most sense. It does nothing to get us there. It is no different from saying only moon people can make EPA regulations, and at the same time providing no funding to put people on the moon. The text of the bill, as written, is asking for what is nearly impossible. If this is unintentional, it needs to be fixed. Otherwise it needs to die.

          Either through ignorance or stupidity, you introduced a false dichotomy and assumed people opposed to this have to be against science, and fell right into the trap. I would ignore you, but you are +5 so someone might be influenced by your idiocy.

          • by je ne sais quoi (987177) on Saturday February 08, 2014 @02:51PM (#46197251)
            I was thinking this bill could actually much worse than just wishing for a scientific process that doesn't exist: there is a large and gaping flaw in its logic. Much of our regulations are issued because of large-scale damage to the ecosystem that costs much more to deal with its consequences than prevent (e.g., the added health costs of air pollution). However, in large systems, especially those involving human beings and livelihood, it is utterly impossible to reproduce something, like the climate change over the entire Earth,. According to the logic, to regulate dumping chemicals in a lake, you'd have to show that not dumping chemicals in the same lake under the same conditions doesn't result in mass fish die offs, increased risk of cancer for local inhabitants, etc. Since regulations are issued only after something becomes a problem, you can't ever reproduce the pristine conditions. How do you know it was chemicals and wasn't the weather that killed all those fish? You didn't reproduce the experiment.

            As for the EPA using secret science, this is an utter load of bull-shit. All of EPA's studies are on-line and publically available. Here is a link to the searchable database containing the superfund site Records of Decision: http://www.epa.gov/superfund/c... [epa.gov]

            This is another manufactured crisis like the "war" on Christmas attempting to make people on the left (or anyone who doesn't agree with them) into demons. Assholes.
        • by Immerman (2627577) on Saturday February 08, 2014 @01:23PM (#46196563)

          Hardly.

          I'm torn - I think this would be a good idea in principle, but can already see it has been phrased specifically to shut down any attempt to mitigate climate change. Transparent is good, but the world is unique and ever-changing. By it's nature any research into weather or climatology will be impossible to reproduce - you can't make a copy of the planet to try different things on. That makes unraveling the details far more difficult, but we've still got supporting evidence from hundreds of different

          Tell you want, I'll grant you reproducible science requirements for EPA regulations if we can do the same for the federal reserve and fiscal policy - they cost the nation FAR more, and there has never been a single reproducible experiment in macroeconomics, ever. In fact there's been precious little *scientific* study of the matter at all, it's all philosophers spinning stories compatible with their biases.

        • by jythie (914043) on Saturday February 08, 2014 @01:43PM (#46196721)
          When one produces a draconian bill to solve a problem that did not exist in the first place, placing new burdens on an regulator that the party has made it quite clear they with to see dismantled, yes, I think it is reasonable to assume that the bill is not good for environmental protection. If it was good for the environment, by their own planks, they would not have introduced it.
      • by superwiz (655733)

        Another bill that looks helpful on the surface but really just supports their agenda.

        Or both. They are not mutually exclusive. They are just not always aligned. As long as they happen to be aligned in this case, we all benefit. It's how a confrontational system benefits the general public -- by forcing two sides to challenge each others' shortcomings.

        • Sadly, while I agree that reproducible science is the gold standard, it's often not possible. How can a cosmologist repeat a supernova to make sure things happened as they believe? More to the point, how can a climatologist repeat a particular climate event? It's just not possible. That doesn't mean we don't have a pretty good idea what's going on, just that the researchers had to work a lot harder and have to rely on lots of corroborating evidence from different sources to make their claims.

          Rather like

    • by Joce640k (829181) on Saturday February 08, 2014 @09:41AM (#46195033) Homepage

      Why only the EPA?

      Why not all the other stuff the government does?

      • by ebno-10db (1459097) on Saturday February 08, 2014 @09:49AM (#46195087)

        Let's start with trade negotiations. No secretive negotiations whose results are only foisted on congress and the people after they've been finalized. "Take it or leave it." Screw that. All drafts, preliminary agreements, and the results of negotiations to be made public as they're ongoing.

      • by John Jorsett (171560) on Saturday February 08, 2014 @10:27AM (#46195303)

        Why only the EPA?

        Why not all the other stuff the government does?

        You have to start somewhere, and if it's successful in this case, then the rest can follow. 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?

        • 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]

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Jim Sadler (3430529)
            This is a disgusting scam that attempts to remove all protection from the actions of some very evil businesses. When an agencny like the EPA takes action the science is based upon compilations of complex studies and agreement among scientists. To try to completely document every minute detail in all of those studies would totally cripple the agencies. As an example we could not hope to apply rigid scientific standards to prove that smoking cigarettes casues cancer or heart disease. It is not bec
            • 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 jedidiah (1196)

                > 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.

                Sounds like Bush II's EPA.

                He took the independent organization created by NIXON and made a mockery out of it.

          • 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 pepty (1976012)
              Three problems with that interpretation. The first is that they asked for the EPA to 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).

              A full set of data files would have to include all of the data taken into account in the original epidemiological study: age, sex, family health history, location of work and residence, and quite a lot of other identifying information. Just think about location: to study the effect of vehicle pollution you need to identify people living within X meters of a highway or busy street. To study the effect of emissions fro

        • by Mr. Slippery (47854) <tms@infa[ ]s.net ['mou' in gap]> 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 Dr. Spork (142693) on Saturday February 08, 2014 @12:23PM (#46196091)
        Exactly. No more federal money for abstinence-only sex education when independent research shows that it fails in every one of its goals and leads to an increase in teen pregnancy and abortions. And since nothing in "creationist science" is reproducible, let's finally put that behind us as well. Oh and don't forget about DARE, which is completely secretive and provably worthless when independently evaluated, yet isn't defunded. Yes, I think I can get along with these new pro-science Republicans!
    • by Applehu Akbar (2968043) on Saturday February 08, 2014 @09:45AM (#46195069)
      So long as all sides in a controversy have to use open science, this will not happen. You have nothing to fear because all real science is open.
      • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 08, 2014 @10:14AM (#46195233)

        So long as all sides in a controversy have to use open science, this will not happen. You have nothing to fear because all real science is open.

        Remember the years that the FDA was just trying make cigarette makers put warning labels on cigarette packs? The cigarette industry had plenty of studies that showed cigarettes were "safe". It's easy to find a scientist to create a study to show that what you want then to show.

        And while the debates are going on about what is "real" science, industry is plowing ahead making money and harming people.

        The same WILL happen with all these industries who are trying get out from under the EPA.

        Industry CANNOT be trusted to do real science when it comes to their regulation and their bottom line.

        It is naive think that data, truth and science will prevail.

        • by NeverVotedBush (1041088) on Saturday February 08, 2014 @12:50PM (#46196315)
          I would say it's not quite that easy to find scientists that can be paid to produce results that favor the payee. Unfortunately it can be done and cigarette companies are a great example. So are a number - but not all - of the scientists working on behalf of polluters. Half of the scientists out there graduated in the bottom half of their class.

          The way to tell is if they publish and are respected in their fields. At least for now most of the scientists in government do publish and are respected in their fields. The republicans are working hard to change that though. It won't be that long before their funding cuts, gag orders, and outright attacks from well placed political minions force many or most of the good ones out.

          Then these kinds of laws won't be necessary. Agencies like the EPA will be where tobacco company "scientists" can aspire to go. They can simply be told to research how industrial waste is actually good for you.

          But this law is probably being sold one way when the real target is different. The EPA is also working on climate change and big oil, coal, and gas all want to stop any and all research and legislation that will get in their way.

          Sadly the EPA is square in the crosshairs of all the big money in this country that want to increase profits by polluting this country. That is where the republicans come in with their pockets open wide for contributions in a quid pro quo deal that rapes the citizens of this country.
    • by Antique Geekmeister (740220) on Saturday February 08, 2014 @10:21AM (#46195265)

      It could be abused, to force the EPA to include "meta-analyses" of scientific results and use them to discredit reliable results compared to large sets of industry published, fraudulent results. Let's not forget the tobacco industry scientific fraud, for decades, about the poisonous effects of cigarette smoke on humans.

      It's also theoretically possible that this kind of law could be used to expose the "industry analyses" to review. That's what I'd hope for, right now: too many analyses are published under extensive non-disclosure agreements that prevent the EPA from being able to publish them. I've certainly seen that kind of restraint of publication about groundwater and soil toxicity analyses for new construction. The project leaders wanted even the existence of the analysis kept secret unless it was favorable to construction.

    • by emagery (914122)
      see: http://youtu.be/ceFyF9px20Y?t=... [youtu.be] ... in this case we're talking the food industry, and in an example a few minutes prior to where this is tagged to begin, Lustig describes how it was the food industry got away with not admitting to people what they were putting in our food (i.e., because it was proprietary information that their competitors could duplicate.) But the point is, some science MUST rely on causal inference. You can't go around infecting thousands of people with HIV to run a study. You c
    • by sumdumass (711423)

      You act as if the only other people who will ever try to duplicate the results using the same said data are companies who are apposed to the regulation. It is interesting that you would think science works this way and think this is a reason not to release all data used to make government regulations.

      The fact of the matter is, if sponsored by the [insert industry] industry couldn't reproduce the findings and every research team from every university and every environmental group and everyone else who is int

    • by Spazmania (174582) on Saturday February 08, 2014 @11:13AM (#46195595) Homepage

      It's a GIANT problem right now. My parents worked for the EPA before they retired. Most of the regs were good but they were endlessly frustrated by some of the junk science used to support them.

      Whatever you want to read in to Rep Schweikert's motivations, he's not wrong on the facts.

    • "Sorry EPA, but the studies sponsored by the [insert industry] industry couldn't reproduce the findings.

      You cannot regulate them.

      This will be one GIANT loophole for industry."

      Nonsense. Reproducibility is reproducibility, and science is science.

      Science paid for by the public, or science used to make government regulations at public expense, should be available to the public. Period.

      If science isn't "reproducible", it isn't science. If you want to call that a "loophole", so be it. But if the truth is a loophole, learn to live with it.

  • This is a bill coming from the GOP??? and its pro transparent science?? Color me skeptical, but this looks like a good idea to me
    • Re:wait what? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by mellon (7048) on Saturday February 08, 2014 @09:42AM (#46195039) Homepage

      It's a great idea, as long as a willful failure to reproduce the results doesn't qualify as "not reproducible." And of course, it also means that a lot of work that is not being done now will have to be done—there's been a push in the sciences to do a better job of publishing code used to arrive at results, but this is by no means a complete success at this juncture. So the effect of this at present would probably be to prevent the EPA making any rules at all. And of course, I'm sure the Republicans have no intention of increasing science funding to account for the additional work that will be required, and the studies that will have to be re-done, and the code that will have to be rewritten.

      So yes, this could be a good thing; nevertheless, I smell a rat.

      Also, this throws the precautionary principle out the window: until something is proven harmful, it can't be regulated. History shows that things often aren't obviously harmful until widely deployed, even though it was obvious to people who thought about it early on that there was likely to be a problem. That sort of hypothesis would argue for study first, then use product. But this rule would require use product, then study.

      The bottom line is that no rule can make government work better. For government to work better, the people implementing the rules have to be smart and have good intentions, and there has to be criticism. If you just pass a rule, but don't hire the right people, it's garbage in, garbage out. And we are the hiring manager, much though we might wish to pretend that it's "the corporations" or "the libruls" or whatever. The buck has to stop here.

      • Re:wait what? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by c0lo (1497653) on Saturday February 08, 2014 @10:02AM (#46195169)

        Also, this throws the precautionary principle out the window: until something is proven harmful, it can't be regulated.

        "Proven harmful" is even mild in comparison with "reproducible harmful". There are lots of things one can never hope to reproduce empirically: can you really reproduce an earthquake (if you can't control it, how can you hope to reproduce it)? Or the effect of variating CO2 percentage on Earth's climate? (yes, you can observe it, but not reproduce it, there's only one Earth to stand as experimental subject)

      • 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.

      • Re:wait what? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Joce640k (829181) on Saturday February 08, 2014 @10:12AM (#46195223) Homepage

        I smell a rat.

        Yep. Proving things is harmful in a complex system can be almost impossible. eg. They couldn't prove that smoking causes cancer, but was there any real doubt?

        This is just designed so they can stonewall anything the EPA proposes.

    • Re:wait what? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Joce640k (829181) on Saturday February 08, 2014 @10:08AM (#46195205) Homepage

      This is a bill coming from the GOP??? and its pro transparent science?? Color me skeptical, but this looks like a good idea to me

      It's aimed specifically at the EPA and it's designed so they can basically block anything they don't like.

      Remember how nobody could *prove* that smoking causes cancer? That's the way this is going to go...

      • Really? Did you read the law, it is linked in the summary and is about three, widely-spaced, pages long. It is not hard to read, and the language is pretty clear. Please quote the portion that does something different than the sponsors of the bill says it does.
    • This is a bill coming from the GOP??? and its pro transparent science?? Color me skeptical, but this looks like a good idea to me

      Ordinary laws get boring names. The crazier the legislation, the more likely it'll be named something interesting-sounding that implies the opposite of what it does. Like "USA Patriot act".

  • 90% of the Americans think it's a good idea so we should do it? Ask them about their opinion about bailouts, I guess you get a similar result for NO FUCKIN' WAY.

    But aside of that, wouldn't that make it kinda hard to push intelligent design and other bull that's kinda hard to prove because "a wizard did it" isn't quite scientific?

  • Well (Score:5, Insightful)

    by The Cat (19816) on Saturday February 08, 2014 @09:42AM (#46195045)

    Here's hoping people will look past their pet political stereotypes and commend those who defend fact-based science in pursuit of better legislation and governance.

    • Re:Well (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ebno-10db (1459097) on Saturday February 08, 2014 @10:05AM (#46195183)

      Here's hoping people will look past their pet political stereotypes and commend those who defend fact-based science in pursuit of better legislation and governance.

      In other words, here's hoping the dupes fall for it.

      What scientific information doesn't the EPA disclose? Yeah, I can't think of any either. Nor have I ever heard of opponents of an EPA policy criticize it on the grounds that the EPA hasn't disclosed relevant scientific information.

      This is a "think of the children" type of bill. Tout something that everybody agrees is desirable, and slip your agenda into the fine print. What does "reproducible" mean? If there are 100 attempts to reproduce the results, and only 99 of them agree, is it reproducible? Do attempts at reproducing the results include work done by the very companies opposed to the regulations, who can't disclose all the details of their work because they're "proprietary"? Does it include work done by the equivalent of creation "scientists"? Can you tie a proposed regulation up in the courts for years because only 99 out of 100 attempts succeeded? Is there fine print saying that a regulation can't be implemented as long as there is "any reasonable legal challenge" or some other lawyerspeak BS that means throw a monkey wrench into the works?

  • I have to agree that when public policy is to made, the information should be disclosed and an open period of debate and review should follow. If this review is actually performed by other qualified scientists in the field vs politicians who understand the laws of nature do not change on a whim and not by 'historical' scientists and explain the findings to the politicians in terms they can understand, it's a good thing. However, to call it a far- left agenda shows the partisan nature of the bill. Sound

  • As usual, it's not about the message. The message is a good idea. It's the constantly confrontational attitude that makes everyone roll their eyes at the GOP and not take them seriously.
  • 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.

    • 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!

      No, it means that the EPA can only rely on those 9 studies. If it takes the 10th study, which they cannot disclose, to make the case for the regulation, they cannot make the regulation. When they are challenged in court, they cannot say, "Yes, these 9 studies leave the question open, but the 10th study (which we cannot allow you to view) proves that this regulation is necessary." What it means is that if the EPA makes a regulation, independent scientists need to be able to look at the science it is based on

      • by Burz (138833)

        No. It means the emails of climate researchers and referenced private medical records have to be put in the public domain. Also, I recall from the climate "controversy" that a good deal of temperature data is owned by private institutions. It might even lead to the requirement that environmental studies can be published behind a paywall.

  • 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.

  • Having lived in Arizona, I know how politically dysfunctional it really is. I support the spirit of the bill meaning that science should be transparent but of course, this barely educated moron has to throw in a gaff at the left. It makes what would be a solid argument and makes it sound childish.
  • by retroworks (652802) on Saturday February 08, 2014 @10:48AM (#46195449) Homepage Journal

    I agree that simply restricting EPA's regulation is an "end of pipe" solution to the problems at EPA (restricting the power to restrict). But while I think the environment is the most important legacy our generation will leave (or not), there are many problems at EPA. A pile of lead silicate in the sunshine at a mining site is governed by 1872 laws and the cleanup paid by Superfund. Try collecting a stack of leaded silicate at a recycling operation. Outdated EPA codes discourage innovation or investment. In 1960 the USA had 7 secondary (recycling) copper smelters, by 2001 there were 0, because EPA enforcement of "waste" (scrap raw material, defined as "waste") is stronger than enforcement of "extraction" (mined raw material, defined as a "commodity") codes. The codes on EPA books were influenced by property value, making resources extracted from populace more difficult. 14/15 of the largest Superfund sites are at hard rock mining sites EPA can't figure out how to regulate... so they double down regulating recyclers, in a perverse "pecking order" show of strength. Visit this EPA Calculator to see EPA's attempt to put their Codes into legal interpretation, and run virgin leaded ore through it (follow "specific exclusions" path for mined ore, defined under "commodity" exclusion) http://www.epa.gov/osw/hazard/... [epa.gov]

    I really liked my colleagues (state env regulatory agency) and hate to sound like a jerk. But that social group-think, and "reverence of the environment", doesn't belong in scientific method, and is part of the problem. There is kind of pseudo-religious hostility towards rewriting environmental regulations, which become ossified and subject to work-arounds. Too many environmental regulators seem spoiled by the knee-jerk support of environmentalists, who fetishize the environmental codes, opposing rewrites and sunsetting of old EPA rules (again, out of justifiable but cynical suspicion the RCRA and CERCLA laws won't be replaced by new ones). Resistance to identified problems with EPA testing methods (like TCLP tests applied to vitrified solids, hah!) feeds the backlash at the GOP over continued use of the old code. How many of the comments here simply dismiss the idea in the article because it comes from the GOP? And how often are Democrats willing to sunset an old code before implementing a new one? It's a vicious intractable political cycle.

    All I can think of is to put USGS.gov (US Geological Survey) or NASA in charge of EPA, as the problems at EPA are entrenched officials who don't know how to steer their ocean liner to catch the sunset. RCRA and CERCLA are broken, EPA officials know it, but they are too afraid that if they are removed they won't be able to get replacement law enacted, and won't be able to hire the type of people that would write good regulations out of the new laws. Or if it's a coding problem, maybe a software engineer can fix it.

  • by sdinfoserv (1793266) on Saturday February 08, 2014 @11:36AM (#46195745) Homepage
    I hope they realize they are outlawing the teaching of Creationism and intelligent design as well.
  • West Virginia (Score:5, Insightful)

    by whistlingtony (691548) on Saturday February 08, 2014 @12:56PM (#46196355)

    I can't believe we're even having this debate barely a month after the debacle in West Virginia. A company didn't inspect their own tanks, the EPA regs were LAX, not tight, and 300,000 people couldn't even wash their hands in their water for a week, let alone drink it. It's not even ancient history. It happened THIS YEAR, and it's FEBRUARY!

    At best, this would just be used as a stall tactic while companies tied up the EPA with further appeals. They already do that. This is just another tactic to use.

    Everyone here should be quite aware that the EPA does a needed and useful job. I like not having lead in my kids' toys, formaldehyde in my milk, and chlorine gas in my air. Regulations are IMPORTANT. They keep us safe. Remember, it's way cheaper to not be safe.

  • by Dcnjoe60 (682885) on Saturday February 08, 2014 @01:09PM (#46196471)

    As part of the discussion on this bill, can the GOP point to any of this secret science that has become EPA regulations? Or, is this another of those GOP fixes for a problem that doesn't exist (like votor fraud).

  • by tp1024 (2409684) on Saturday February 08, 2014 @02:34PM (#46197101)

    Instead of: "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."

    He should have said: "Public policy should come from public data, not based on the whims of capitalist corporations," says Schweikert. "For far too long, government agencies have approved regulations that have placed a crippling burden on the environment in this country with no public evidence to justify their actions."

    I'm sure slashdot would have agreed.

    The hypocrisy is strong in this discussion.

  • by HiThere (15173) <charleshixsnNO@SPAMearthlink.net> on Saturday February 08, 2014 @02:35PM (#46197111)

    If this is well intentioned, and well done, then it should apply to all, or almost all, government agencies.

    Because it singles out the EPA, I suspect a political agenda, and don't trust it.

  • by whistlingtony (691548) on Saturday February 08, 2014 @05:57PM (#46198487)

    This reminds me of a graphic I saw once. Let me dig it out of The Internet for y'all.

    This'll do. http://whowhatwhy.com/2012/02/... [whowhatwhy.com]

    I think this sums up what's happening here quite well.

    For the link averse.... "Which is more likely? Regional environmental groups and community activists... are spending their limited operating budgets... in a massive conspiracy with 90% of the global scientificl community... to create a hoax and ruin the economy? Or Oil Companies... are spending their obscene profits... to bribe anyone that they can... to protect their profits and limit any future liability that their pollution might cause?"

    You know the answer.

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