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Most transparent administration' ever threatens to veto EPA transparency bills

The Obama administration argued Monday that the Environmental Protection Agency should, in some case, be able to write regulations based on science and data that is not made available to the public.

That position goes against the view of House Republicans, who are planning to pass legislation this week that would prohibit the EPA from issuing rules based on science that isn't made available to the public. It also seems to go against the spirit of President Barack Obama's boast that his is the "most transparent administration" ever.

Screen Shot 2014-11-18 at 11.39.21 AM President Barack Obama once said his is the most transparent administration ever, but the White House on Monday said he would veto three bills to bring transparency to the EPA.
Image: AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais

House Republicans this week are expected to pass the Secret Science Reform Act, which would force the EPA to make public the scientific data it uses to write environmental rules. GOP members say the EPA too often releases rules based on data the EPA keeps secret.

"The Secret Science Reform Act ends costly EPA rulemaking from happening behind closed doors and out of public view," Schweikert said when he introduced his bill earlier this year. "Public policy should come from public data, not based on the whims of far-left environmental groups."

Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) has said that most air regulations the EPA has issued under Obama have been based on data that was never released.

But on Monday, the White House released a statement on the bill saying that it faces a veto threat. "If the president were presented with [the legislation], his senior advisors would recommend that he veto the bill," it said.

The statement said the bill could lead to legal challenges about whether the EPA has fully released all available data, which could delay EPA rules. It also said that in some cases, the EPA should not have to release scientific data at all.

"The bill also could prevent EPA from making crucial decisions, including those concerning the cleanup of contaminated sites, if the data supporting those decisions cannot, for legitimate reasons, be made publicly available," it said. As one example, it said some data cannot be made available publicly "in order to protect the privacy of test subjects or confidential business information."

Obama is unlikely to use his veto threat this year, since the Democratic Senate is not expected to take up the House bill. But Republicans are likely to try again in the new Congress in 2015, when Republicans will run both the House and the Senate.

The White House said Obama would veto two other EPA bills the House will pass this week. One is aimed at creating a more balanced science advisory board in the EPA, and allow for public discussion of the board's proceedings.

The White House said public comment would be a "burdensome" requirement on the board, and said adding others to the board would "impair its ability to carry out its mandate."

A third bill would require the EPA to disclose how long it takes to get a permit under the Clean Air Act, and report how how it can speed up this process.

The White House said it opposes this bill because it "would impose arbitrary and unnecessary requirements that could weaken the public health and environmental protections of the Clean Air Act."

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