EPA Takes First Steps in Acquiring and Releasing Secret Data
Process begins in Vitter led EPW Republican effort to pull back secrecy behind EPA air rules
August 21, 2013
U.S. Sen. David Vitter (R-La.), top Republican on the Environment and Public Works Committee, today received the first in what is anticipated to be a series of responses from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), after agreement by the agency to acquire and provide for independent analysis the science behind multiple rules promulgated under the Clean Air Act (CAA). Vitter has been calling for the release of the information since March 2013.
"The basic scientific data underlying virtually all of the Agency's claimed benefits from Clean Air Act rules has been hidden from the public," Vitter said. "The EPA's recent Clean Air Act regulations, including the upcoming ozone standard, are expected to be some of the most costly that the federal government has ever issued. Relying on secret data to support these rules is unacceptable. The public and outside scientists deserve the opportunity to independently verify EPA's claims."
When Gina McCarthy was first nominated to head the EPA, Vitter demanded more transparency from the Agency. One of his five transparency requests of McCarthy was for the data upon which rules were based to be made available so the public can independently review the agency's conclusions. EPA agreed that the previously released data is not sufficient to replicate analysis and has agreed to acquire and make further data public without compromising any personal and private information. EPA agreed to begin this long overdue process only after Senator Vitter and committee Republicans unified in an effort to force transparency otherwise required by law.
Since 1997, Congress has requested that 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 should not be defining the universe of "legitimate" scientists based on controlling how the agency's work is viewed, but rather the public has a right to everything he's asked for and has directed the agency to obtain process options for protecting all personally identifiable information