HomeWashington Letter2015 ▶ House Passes Secret Science Reform Act and EPA Advisory Board Act
House Passes Secret Science Reform Act and EPA Advisory Board Act

March 2015

This week, the House of Representatives passed two bills that increase the ability of industry to stop, weaken or slow down EPA's Clean Air rule making process.  The first, bill – the Secret Science Reform Act (H.R. 1030) – claims to be a bill to increase the public's access to science that EPA uses for rule making purposes.  However, the bill is more likely to be used by regulated industry to attack both the science and scientists who conduct research on the health effects of air pollution and other environmental exposures.

The bill requires that EPA make public, "(1) materials, data, and associated protocols necessary to understand, assess, and extend conclusions; (2) computer codes and models involved in the creation and analysis of the information; (3) recorded factual materials; and (4) detailed descriptions of how to access and use the information."  EPA would be barred from using any study that did not satisfy the above requirements.

Item 3 – recorded factual materials, is particularly troubling in that it could include information that would jeopardize patient confidentiality.  Further, factual material could require access to tissue samples or air pollution monitor filters or other sources of original data that are not typically broadly shared with the public.  The bill also requires that EPA use research that is "substantially reproducible" – calling into question whether any of the longitudinal studies that document the adverse health effects of air pollution, could ever be used by EPA because the longitudinal studies essentially cannot be reproduced.

The House passed a second bill that is troublesome for EPA.  The bill – the EPA Scientific Advisory Reform Act – essentially turns the conflict of interest paradigm on its head, holds that researchers who study the health effects of air pollution are conflicted and paves the way for industry scientists and employees to serve on EPA advisory panels.  The likely effect of this legislation, should it become law, is to make it harder for investigator-initiated federally funded scientists to participate in EPA advisory panels while substantially reducing the barriers for industry scientists and employees to participate.

The House passed both bill along largely partisan lines. The ATS opposes both bills.

Last Reviewed: October 2017