Bonamici Defends Science at EPA Hearing
WASHINGTON, DC [7/17/18] – Today Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) testified at the Environmental Protection Agency in opposition to a proposed rule that would force the Agency to ignore valuable scientific information.
“The proposed rule would impede, if not eradicate, the EPA’s ability to protect Americans from significant risks to human health and the environment by limiting the scope of research that the EPA could consider in making decisions,” said Congresswoman Bonamici.
The Strengthening Transparency in Regulatory Science proposed rule would require that science informing EPA’s regulatory actions be made publicly available to allow for independent validation, regardless of whether it contains personal information or confidential data. It is opposed by thousands of scientists and many leading scientific organizations.
“The proposed rule perpetuates the incorrect notion that the science the EPA relies on is somehow hidden. It is not,” Bonamici said. “The EPA would be forced to ignore valuable information discovered during their research because it contains confidential information. This would have chilling consequences for the EPA and every person who benefits from clean air and clean water.”
Bonamici has long been a vocal opponent of rules and legislation that attack science. Last month, she joined her colleagues in sending a letter to the EPA in opposition to the proposed rule. As the Ranking Member on the Subcommittee on the Environment, she has spoken out against House legislation similar to the proposed rule.
The full text of the testimony follows.
Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici – July 17, 2018
Testimony for Environmental Protection Agency Public Hearing
Strengthening Transparency in Regulatory Science Proposed Rule
Thank you Acting Administrator Wheeler and Director Sinks. My name is Suzanne Bonamici and I represent the First Congressional District of Oregon. I serve on the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, and I am the Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Environment and I appreciate the opportunity to testify before you today. I am opposed to the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed rule titled Strengthening Transparency in Regulatory Science. The proposed rule would impede, if not eradicate, the EPA’s ability to protect Americans from significant risks to human health and the environment by limiting the scope of research that the EPA could consider in making decisions.
The proposed rule perpetuates the incorrect notion that the science the EPA relies on is somehow hidden. It is not. This misconception is based on conflating the meaning of “secret” and “confidential.” None of the information used by the EPA is secret. Some of the information may be confidential, if, for example, it includes the personal health information of individuals who participated in a study.
As a cornerstone of its regulatory process, the EPA relies on peer-reviewed science. The EPA already publicly discloses studies that support regulatory action. The proposed rule simply attempts to block access to good science. Much of the science that is used to inform regulatory actions is developed outside of the Agency. Scientific studies often include personal information and other confidential data. Because this data is legally protected from disclosure, the EPA would be forced to ignore valuable information discovered during their research because it contains confidential information. This would have chilling consequences for the EPA and every person who benefits from clean air and clean water.
It is also deeply troubling that the proposed rule is inconsistent with the Agency’s statutory obligation to use the best available science as required in the Toxic Substances Control Act, Safe Drinking Water Act, and Clean Water Act. The proposed rule would preclude the use of a range of scientific research that has long been used to safeguard the public. There is also tremendous uncertainty whether the proposed rule would retroactively apply to existing standards and regulations. Retroactive application would severely undermine existing public health and environmental protections that keep the public safe and healthy.
Transparency is a laudable goal and it can be accomplished through collaboration with and input from the scientific community. It is noteworthy that thousands of scientists and many leading scientific organizations also oppose this proposed rule. If the proposed rule is implemented, it is possible or even likely that scientists, organizations, and research institutions will be less inclined to participate in EPA funded research because of the risk of improperly disclosing personal information. It may also be more challenging for researchers to recruit participants for their studies because of the fear that personal data could be shared.
Over the last few years, the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology has considered several iterations of legislation that have many similarities to the proposed rule. I have been a vocal opponent of these bills for the reasons I have stated. I also want to note that, despite repeated efforts by the Majority, so-called “Secret Science” legislation has not passed both chambers. Congress has the sole Constitutional authority to legislate, and this proposed rule is an administrative attempt to circumvent the legislative process.
I strongly urge you to withdraw this proposed rule. It will undermine scientific integrity, jeopardize bedrock public health and environmental standards, and endanger the EPA’s ability to protect the American people, which is its mission.
Thank you for the consideration of my testimony.