Senator accuses EPA of using ‘secret data’ to write regulations

“Many of EPA's regulations have big price tags. Yet EPA refuses to publicize the basic scientific data underlying virtually all of what they have done,” Vitter said. “The new Clean Air Act rules are the biggest example. Implementing the Clean Air Act happens to be the responsibility, by the way, that Gina McCarthy has been directly overseeing.”

McCarthy is President Obama’s nominee to succeed Lisa Jackson as EPA administrator.

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Even though the EPA is not required by law to run cost-benefit analysis for some of its new rules, the White House’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) “still requires that they conduct cost-benefit and then behaves as if it were in fact the legal standard” because of two Executive Orders ordering agencies to calculate the two measures, according to the Center for Progressive Reform, which largely opposes the cost-benefit standard. 

But Vitter said the EPA is using “manipulated data” in its analysis, without expanding further.

“The National Ambient Air Quality Standards, for example, are complex and sweeping in their nature. The law requires, as it should, that they be based on sound scientific data and that it be implemented through a robust decision-making process,” he said. “Unfortunately, that has not been the case and recent standards have suffered from a rushed process, reliance on secret data, and biased scientific review.”

The debate over the merits of cost-benefit analysis remains hotly contested, with critics claiming that the numbers can be skewed to overstate costs or benefits. Many of the benefits of EPA's regulations are hard to translate into monetary terms, according to public interest groups, leading them to be undervalued.

The EPA did not respond to requests for comment.