H.R. 4012, Secret Science Reform Act of 2014

H.R. 4012

Secret Science Reform Act of 2014

Date
November 19, 2014 (113th Congress, 2nd Session)

Staff Contact
Communications

Floor Situation

On Wednesday, November 19, 2014, the House will consider H.R. 4012, the Secret Science Reform Act of 2014, under a rule.  H.R. 4012 was introduced on February 6, 2014 by Rep. David Schweikert (R-AZ) and referred to the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology.  The bill was marked up on June 24, 2014 and ordered reported by voice vote.

Bill Summary

H.R. 4012 amends Section 6(b) of the Environmental Research, Development, and Demonstration Authorization Act of 1978 to prohibit the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from proposing, finalizing, or disseminating a “covered action” unless all scientific and technical information relied on to support the action is: 1) specifically identified; and 2) publicly available in a manner sufficient for independent analysis and substantial reproduction of research results.[1]

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[1] A “covered action” is defined as a “risk, exposure, or hazard assessment, criteria document, standard, limitation, regulation, regulatory impact analysis, or guidance.”

Background

“Science has been central to EPA’s mission and functions since its establishment in 1970,” describing it as “the backbone of the EPA’s decision-making.”[2]  EPA Administrators throughout the agency’s history have stressed the importance of transparency and public participation in decision-making.[3]  In 2010, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) echoed this sentiment, stating that “agencies should expand and promote access to scientific information by making it available online in open formats.”[4]  Despite strongly positioning themselves “in favor of openness and transparency regarding the science behind regulations, the Administration has yet to make public the scientific data that is behind numerous EPA regulations,” and numerous outside research have sought and been denied the data behind recent EPA decisions.[5]  The Science, Space, and Technology Committee issued a subpoena for this information, which the EPA responded by saying that it could not provide all of the data.[6]  As a result, it is not possible to effectively reproduce the scientific data used in order to promulgate regulations.  This legislation would prohibit the EPA from proposing, finalizing, or disseminating regulations without first providing the necessary scientific data, in turn improving transparency and oversight of the EPA.

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[2] House Report 113-619, at 2.
[3] See Id.
[4] See Id. at 3.  See also: http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/microsites/ostp/scientific-integrity-memo-12172010.pdf
[5] See Id. at 4.
[6] See Id.

Cost

CBO estimates that implementing H.R. 4012 would cost “about $250 million a year for the next few years, subject to appropriation of the necessary amounts.”[7]  Costs in subsequent years would likely decline gradually.  Enacting H.R. 4012 would not affect direct spending or revenues.[8]

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[7] https://www.cbo.gov/sites/default/files/cbofiles/attachments/hr4012_0.pdf
[8] See Id.

Amendments

1)         Rep. Gosar (R-AZ) Amendment #2 Amendment mandates that the EPA make all scientific and technical information relied upon for rulemaking available online before proposing or finalizing new regulations.

2)         Reps. Kennedy (D-MA), McGovern (D-MA), and Clark (D-MA) Amendment #1 – Amendment allows the EPA to use all peer-reviewed scientific publications.

Additional Information

For questions or further information contact the GOP Conference at 5-5107.

Additional Views

STATEMENT OF ADMINISTRATION POLICY
H.R. 4012 – Secret Science Reform Act of 2014 
(Rep. Schweikert, R-AZ, and 53 cosponsors)

The Administration strongly supports regulatory transparency, but strongly opposes H.R. 4012.  The bill would impose arbitrary, unnecessary, and expensive requirements that would seriously impede the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) ability to use science to protect public health and the environment, as required under an array of environmental laws, while increasing uncertainty for businesses and States.

H.R. 4012 could be used to prevent EPA from finalizing regulations until legal challenges about the legitimate withholding of certain scientific and technical information are resolved.  The bill also could prevent EPA from making crucial decisions, including those concerning the cleanup of contaminated sites, if the data supporting those decisions cannot, for legitimate reasons, be made publicly available.  For example, some scientifically-important data is not made broadly available in order to protect the privacy of test subjects or Confidential Business Information, and H.R. 4012 could prevent EPA from taking actions based on protected data.  In short, the bill would undermine EPA’s ability to protect the health of Americans, would impose expensive new mandates on EPA, and could impose substantial litigation costs on the Federal government.  It also could impede EPA’s reliance on the best available science.

Instead of an overly broad bill that would tie EPA’s hands, the Administration urges Congress to support the Administration’s efforts to make scientific and technical information more accessible and regulations more transparent.  A bill consistent with the principles expressed in the Administration’s Executive Order 13563 “Improving Regulation and Regulatory Review” and the December 2010 Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) Memorandum on Scientific Integrity, as well as implementation of the Administration’s recent open data and public access initiatives (e.g., OSTP’s February 2013 policy memorandum on Increasing Access to the Results of Federally Funded Scientific Research) would greatly benefit the American people.  EPA also has embarked on several initiatives that enhance access to and transparency of data and science used to inform policy and regulatory decisions.

If the President were presented with H.R. 4012, his senior advisors would recommend that he veto the bill.