Wednesday was a busy one for everyone’s favorite fossil fuel-funded science inquisitor. Not only did Lamar Smith make an embarrassment of himself and the Science Committee by literally attacking Science Magazine, but afterward also went after EPA science with a pair of bills straight from the tobacco industry’s playbook.
The first is called the HONEST act, because doublespeak is Lamar Smith’s native language. The bill claims to increase the transparency and accountability of EPA science by mandating studies be easily replicable and their data made fully public. But an EPA transition team member let slip to Emily Atkins how thoroughly it would prevent regulation: “Almost everything that has been done in the last 10, 11, 12 years would not pass the standards.”
By mandating the EPA only use studies with public data that can be reproduced by outside researchers, it essentially prevents the agency from using any study it doesn’t conduct itself. Because it would need to get permission to release private data, the EPA wouldn’t be allowed to use studies that, for example, track cancer rates around polluted sites. On top of that, independent EPA studies would be hobbled too. Longitudinal studies that track people over the course of their lives obviously take decades, so reproducing them would mean stalling regulations for decades.
And of course by definition, a one-time environmental disaster can’t be reproduced. So for the EPA to base future regulations off of information gathered in the aftermath of something like the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, it would have to cause another spill to replicate the study.
These and other objections were raised by ranking Science Committee member Eddie Bernice Johnson and the various scientific organizations who opposed the bill (AAAS, AGU, AMS, ALA, ACS, APHA, and others that don’t start with “A”). Their statements and letters make for a nice, infuriating read if you’re in need of a quick blood pressure spike.
The second bill, which you know is high quality because its sponsor wrote an op-ed in the Daily Caller praising it, claims to improve the Scientific Advisory Board, a group of experts who give policymakers advice on technical scientific issues.
By inverting the meaning of “conflict of interest,” the bill gives industry voices a seat at the table, while kicking out publicly funded researchers. Which is exactly what the Trump transition team members and former tobacco and fossil fuel shills who devised it want. Again, feel free to read the opposition from Rep. Johnson and a cadre of scientific organizations if you need something to get amped up about and don’t have any coffee handy.
If all this has you seething, congratulations friend! You’re in the company of respected scientific institutions. If, on the other hand, you think like Lamar Smith and so many Republicans, that opposition to climate action is “not at all silly” because it might be natural, and that climate change will bring benefits, pozdravleniya comrade. You’ve sided with Vladimir Putin.
On that note, whether or not these bills get through the Senate and end up on President Trump’s desk remains to be seen.