Rep. Smith says ‘secret science’ bill is a top priority

By Jamila Blake

©NASA HQ

The Secret Science Reform Act has been introduced over the years by Rep. Lamar Smith (TX-21). As the 115th Congress kicks off, Smith intends to push for the bill as one of his top priorities. Under this bill, the Environmental Protection Agency would be required to use only “transparent or reproducible” science when developing regulations. The data would also need to be available online. Smith says, “The legislation simply requires the EPA to base its regulations on publicly available data.”

The bill has seen support from multiple industry groups, but several concerns have been raised over the “secret science” bill. Organizations, like the Society for Conservation Biology, have pointed to the difficulty to reproduce some data. Data may be collected from some studies that are conducted on a large-scale and require extensive resources, as well as, one-time events, like oil spills, that can’t be effectively replicated. Another concern that has been expressed is that data cannot be made public in some cases; revealing information from studies that collect human health data could violate medical disclosure laws.

Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (TX-30), the ranking member of the Science Committee, said the EPA does not use “secret” science. The EPA utilizes peer-reviewed research from trusted scientific sources, but the bill would have judges reviewing the science used to develop regulations. The American Association for the Advancement of Science says the bill will take review away from the experts of the scientific community and sees potential for long-lasting implications to how the EPA operates in shifting from peer-reviewed science to judicial review.

Last year the bill passed the House and made it through the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, but never made it to a vote on the Senate floor. This year both Republicans and Democrats think the Secret Science Reform Act has a stronger chance of becoming law than in previous years. The bill will likely be reintroduced within the next month.

Read TWS’ Standing Position on the Use of Science in Policy and Management Decisions.

Jamila Blake is a policy intern at The Wildlife Society as part of the Wildlife Policy and Programs team. Read more of Jamila's articles here.