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House passes bill stopping EPA from using hidden data when crafting regulation

Republicans pass a bill in the House on Wednesday that forces EPA to craft regulation around science that is only available to the public (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

On Wednesday, in a 228-194 vote, the Republican-controlled House passed a bill that would prohibit the Environmental Protection Agency from crafting regulation based off of scientific data that has not been seen by the public.

The Honest and Open New EPA Science Treatment Act, or HONEST Act, will force the EPA to use data that is publicly available when crafting regulations, potentially leaving out medical findings that are kept hidden from the public to protect patient privacy. Provisions have been set aside within the bill to redact personal information, however.

“This legislation ensures that sound science is the basis for EPA decisions and regulatory actions,” said Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), chairman of the Science Committee, and author of the bill.

“The days of ‘trust-me’ science are over. In our modern information age, federal regulations should be based only on data that is available for every American to see and that can be subjected to independent review,” he continued. “That’s called the scientific method.”

Smith discussed how during the previous administration, the EPA would craft and enforce regulation that would be based off of data that was hidden from the general public. The Texas congressman said that he also cares about the environment, but transparency is needed in order for the science being used to impose regulation to be legitimate.

“We all care about the environment,” he said. “But if policies are not based on legitimate science, regulations will result in economic hardship with little or no environmental benefit. In other words, the regulations would be all pain and no gain.”

Democrats, however, are claiming that Smith's bill will essentially cripple the EPA, and endanger everyone. In a memo from the Democratic Staff of the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, they argued that it “would prevent EPA from functioning effectively and using the most relevant scientific data,” and that end result would be that the "EPA’s work grinds to a halt and the health of Americans and the environment are put at risk.”

The EPA may be taking even more hits in the future, as President Donald Trump's budget plan for 2018 has the government organization taking a 30 percent reduction in funding.

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