House Science chairman says EPA violating subpoena

“EPA is using the subpoenaed data to support regulations that could cost the American people trillions of dollars. Yet EPA has refused to make the data available to Congress or the American people. Regulations based on secret data have no place in a democracy,” Smith wrote in a letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy on Tuesday.

ADVERTISEMENT
But the EPA says it can’t extract that data because the agency didn’t conduct the studies in question, and because those efforts didn’t receive federal funding.

“There are, however, limitations on the agency’s legal ability to compel a third party to provide us with data, especially when that data was funded with private, not federal, funding,” EPA Associate Administrator Laura Vaught wrote in an Aug. 19 letter to Smith.

Further, the EPA said dissemination of the data would lead to potentially revealing personally identifying information, in turn violating confidentiality agreements and privacy laws.

The agency said it has had some success in handing over data from certain studies in a response to a request from Sen. David Vitter (R-La.), but that Smith’s ask ran into thornier legal issues.

“Unfortunately, our receipt of the subpoena from the Committee does not, and cannot, provide us with legal authority to compel a third party to comply with our requests where that legal authority did not already exist,” Vaught continued.

But Smith asserted that the agency has “no legal excuse for failing to comply with the subpoena,” and contended that "de-identification" of personal information is “practicable.”

Smith said in an August hearing that the committee would de-identify data before making them available to the public. The EPA and Democrats, however, have said that step would run afoul of privacy laws.

“If you are genuinely frustrated by an inability to de-identify the data promptly, the Committee can recommend several experts who we are confident could de-identify the data in a matter of days,” Smith wrote. 

More in E2-Wire

Five threats to the EPA’s climate rule

Read more »