House passes bill to limit EPA 'secret science'

The House on Wednesday passed legislation to prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from issuing new regulations unless it provides the scientific data to justify them.

Passage of the measure, H.R. 4012, fell largely along party lines with a vote of 237-190.

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The bill is part of the House GOP's package of legislation on the floor this week to limit the EPA's regulatory powers. On Tuesday, the House passed a measure to reform the EPA's Scientific Advisory Board.

Republicans said the measure would enhance transparency at the EPA.

"Costly environmental regulations should only be based on data that is available to independent scientists and the public," said House Science, Space and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas). 

But Democrats said imposing such a requirement could force the EPA to release confidential patient information used in scientific studies, a violation of federal law.

"The legislation will not improve the EPA's actions. Rather, it will stifle public health protections," said Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (Texas), the top Democrat on the committee.

Moreover, Democrats questioned why Republicans were demanding access to scientific data when many deny the existence of climate change.

"The Republicans don't have a lot of credibility when they talk about wanting more science. Because I have seen so many areas where Republicans have tried to ignore the science," said Rep. Henry Waxman (Calif.), the top Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Rep. David SchweikertDavid SchweikertSenate races heating up Tea Party class reassesses record Lawmakers to DOD: Reject 'no touch' policy sought by 9/11 plotter MORE (R-Ariz.), the bill's sponsor, said it would establish more responsible policymaking.

"If you're going to make public policy, do it by public data," Schweikert said. "Is there anyone in this body when we all ran for office that did not commit to transparency?"

The White House issued a veto threat against the legislation. In a statement of administration policy, the White House warned the bill would be used to simply mire proposed EPA regulations in legal challenges over "legitimate withholding" of scientific data.

"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," the White House statement reads.

Before final passage, the House rejected an amendment, 194-230, sponsored by Rep. Joseph Kennedy (D-Mass.) that would allow the EPA to use peer-reviewed scientific publications even if they are based on data prohibited from being made public.

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