The House passed legislation this week that would require the Environmental Protection Agency to make any regulations it enacts to be based on scientific research that is publicly available.
Known as the Honest and Open New EPA Science Treatment Act of 2017 (HONEST Act) (H.R. 1430), the purpose of the bill is to give independent scientists a fair chance to validate the studies EPA uses to make new regulations.
The bill requires scientific information to be “publicly available online in a manner that is sufficient for independent analysis and substantial reproduction of research results.” However, it does state that any personally identifiable information, including trade secrets or financial information, can be redacted. It would only apply to future regulations.
The bill was introduced on March 8 by Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX). It has moved quickly through the House, passing through the full House by vote on March 29.
Smith said in a statement:
The American people have a right to see the data that is used to justify EPA’s costly regulations. The HONEST Act requires EPA to base new regulations on sound science that is publicly available, and not hidden from the American people. The days of ‘trust me’ science are over. Allowing EPA’s data to be independently reviewed promotes sound science that will restore confidence in the EPA decision-making process. With House passage of this critical bill, we are one step closer to a more open and honest EPA.
The House also approved a related bill (H.R. 1431) this week that would make changes to the composition of EPA’s Science Advisory Board (SAB) in an effort to increase the diversity of backgrounds of board members. Among other provisions, the legislation states that the board would be composed of at least nine members, at least 10% of whom are from state, local or tribal governments and none of whom can have current grants or contracts from the EPA.
Smith said in a statement about the bill:
This valuable bill opens the door to increased outside input, wider expert opinions, and more balanced recommendations in EPA’s SAB. Long-needed reforms to the SAB will increase public participation in EPA’s science review process and require the SAB to be more responsive to the public and to Congress. These changes will strengthen the public’s trust in the science that EPA uses to support its regulations. I appreciate Mr. Lucas’s leadership on this important legislation, and look forward to seeing this bill up for consideration in the Senate.
Scott Pruitt recently took over as the agency’s new administrator who has said he thinks the EPA has made “extraordinary progress” over the last several decades but added that “there is real work to be done” in redefining some of the agency’s priorities under the Trump administration.