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Smith threatens to subpoena EPA 'secret science'

By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor

Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith and Environment Subcommittee Chairman Chris Stewart (R-Utah) recently sent a final letter to newly confirmed Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy demanding the release of "secret science" that the agency has used as the basis of costly regulations.

The House Committee has repeatedly requested the data EPA uses to justify virtually every Clean Air Act regulation proposed and finalized by the Obama Administration.

Smith said the administration is using this data to support upcoming air quality rules, one of which is expected to be the most costly regulation in United States history with a price tag of $90 billion annually. Smith described the burdensome and costly regulations as a way for the government to control peoples' lives.

"If EPA has nothing to hide, why not provide this information to Congress and the American people?" Smith asked in the letter. "We are concerned that EPA's reluctance to respond to Congressional requests or to obtain and assess the data to assure the legitimacy of claimed benefits may reflect weaknesses in the studies. Recent claims by the agency that it is working to obtain the data from certain academic institutions ring hollow, given the years of delay and excuses."

On Friday, July 26, Smith told a gathering of the Kendall County Republican Party in Boerne that the deadline for a response from the EPA is 10 am, Thursday, August 1. "After that, we'll issue subpoenas," he said, "the first from this committee in 20 years."

For more than two years, the committee has sought access to the data, sending six letters to the EPA and other top administration officials. But the administration has refused to respond to the request with substantive information.

The data sets in question are used to justify major costly new air regulations. As one example, the EPA's proposed limits on ozone are expected to be some of the most expensive the federal government has ever issued. In the EPA assessment of this standard, it cited studies based upon these hidden data sets more than a thousand times, according to Smith.

"Despite a commitment you made in testimony before this Committee more than 20 months ago, and multiple requests since that time, EPA has failed to provide the information in a manner that would allow for independent scientific verification," the lawmakers wrote. "Given the central role of these publicly-funded analyses in providing justification for major, costly EPA regulations, it is imperative that this information be open and transparent. The American people are going to be forced to foot the bill. They have a right to know whether EPA's new rules are based on sound science or a partisan agenda."

Smith and Stewart gave the EPA one last chance to comply with the request, noting, "failure to provide the requested documents will result in a subpoena to ensure disclosure."

In July, President Barack Obama gave a speech proclaiming that "for the first time in history, we've opened up huge amounts of government data to the American people, and put it on the Internet for free." In that spirit, this administration should make public the data that underlies these critical taxpayer-funded studies, Smith and Stewart contend.

"The data is supposed to be posted. Because it isn't, this raises questions on what the decisions and regulations are really based on," Smith said.