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Bill would rein in ‘secret science’ of the EPA

By David Tanner, senior editor

There’s a bill in Congress that would prohibit the Environmental Protection Agency from using “secret science” to impose regulations.

The bill, called the Secret Science Reform Act, would require EPA science and analysis to be transparent and reproducible by third parties before it can advance in the regulatory arena. Opponents have attempted to get the bill withdrawn, saying it would harm efforts to protect public health.

The House of Representatives voted 241-175 in favor of its version of the bill, HR1030, led by Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, and 28 co-sponsors.

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee considered its version of the bill, S544, during a markup on April 28. Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., introduced the Senate version in February, with Senate EPW Committee Chairman James Inhofe, R-Okla., Sen. David Vitter, R-La., and Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Neb., among the seven cosponsors.

Despite opposition led by Sen. Edward Markey, D-Mass., ranking member of the Senate Subcommittee on Superfund, Waste Management and Regulatory Oversight, and Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., ranking member of the Senate EPW Committee, the committee reported the bill favorably to the Senate floor. It is now up to Senate leadership to decide how and when the bill would come up for a vote.

The EPA regulates tailpipe emissions and fuel economy in vehicles. The EPA’s tailpipe mandates from 2004 through 2010 added at least $21,000 to the average cost of a new heavy-duty truck according to the American Truck Dealers, part of the National Automobile Dealers Association. That number does not take into account the ongoing maintenance costs for the extra technology and equipment.

The EPA, along with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, teamed up to issue the first-ever comprehensive greenhouse gas emission and fuel economy standards for heavy-duty trucks in 2011. That rule targets a 20 percent reduction in emissions and 20 percent improvement in fuel economy during a 2014-2018 window. That regulation is known as GHG Phase I.

The agencies are getting closer to issuing GHG Phase II to further regulate emissions and fuel economy beyond model year 2018. LL