"EPA has continually refused to make public the basic scientific data underlying virtually all of the Agency's claimed benefits from Clean Air Act rules. Everyone agrees on the importance of clean air, but EPA needs to release the secret data they use in formulating rules," Vitter said. "The EPA's new Clean Air regulations, including the upcoming ozone standard, are expected to be some of the most costly the federal government has ever issued. Relying on secret data to support these rules is not acceptable. The public and outside scientists must be able to independently verify the EPA's claims, especially when the results are contradicted by so many other studies."
On March 4, 2013, Sen. Vitter and U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), Chairman of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee wrote a letter to Gina McCarthy highlighting the lack of transparency behind EPA's rulemaking. They asked for the underlying data to be made available so the public can independently examine cost/benefit analyses and other issues. Click here to read that letter. The EPA responded on April 10, admitting the data provided is not sufficient to replicate analysis.
Since 1997, Congress has requested the underlying data for particulate matter studies (PM2.5) be made available to Congress and the public. EPA opposed full public release of the data, citing confidentiality concerns and the importance of limiting access to those researchers with legitimate scientific inquiry qualifications. Vitter has acknowledged and respects all privacy concerns, and notes that EPA has a right to everything he's asked for and has not requested any personally identifying information.
Below is a copy of Vitter's letter. Click here to view the PDF version.
June 12, 2013
The Honorable Robert Perciasepe
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
1200 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20460
Dear Acting Administrator Perciasepe:
As Senate EPW Republicans continue to await further fulfillment of the commitments made by you and your staff pursuant to the Gina McCarthy nomination I was hoping you could clarify the status of obtaining and providing the underlying data in our third transparency request. Senate EPW Republicans engaged in this process back on March 20, three months ago, anticipating tangible and credible efforts to comply with this request. A commitment was made by you personally on April 25 as well as in writing on May 15. We are several months into this process with no clear path forward provided by the Agency, and as Congress continues to weigh other options to obtain this data, I was hoping you could clarify the status of obtaining and providing the underlying data in our third transparency request.
Currently, EPA's only responses include insufficient data previously provided to Congress commitments yet to be fulfilled, and, most recently, recurring scheduling conflicts. As of yet, we have not requested the Agency discontinue use of this data - the alternative to obtaining and releasing it, which provides an opportunity for independent verification. In regard to data requested that may contain confidential information, the Agency needs to determine how de-identification procedures will be applied. In more than one meeting I suggested that EPA investigate guidance developed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for implementation of the Affordable Care Act, as well as across-Agency solutions being developed under the President's recent Open Data Executive Order and Policy.
Throughout this process, EPA has insufficiently responded to our requests, making verbal commitments not yet backed by tangible action. We would note that the NRC's response for information related to the MacFarlane nomination is a far better example of Agency commitment to responding to Congress and honoring transparency. EPA has an important responsibility and an opportunity to increase the transparency and credibility of the scientific basis of its rulemakings. At minimum, the public should be provided the opportunity for independent verification of EPA's claims. At this point in the process, our requests have gone unmet, with commitments from you personally and your staff falling far short of fulfillment.
Stonewalling throughout this process ignores the law and undercuts the Administration's purported commitment to transparency. Accordingly, I ask that you provide by the end of the week an outline of EPA's strategy for achieving acquisition of the requested data, an outline of what data exists and what does not, and the steps to de-identification of personally identifying information that EPA has been analyzing.
Environment and Public Works