William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

Secret Science Reform Act of 2014

Trust me. I'm from the EPA.

Trust me. I’m from the EPA.

Honesty & Science

Your government wouldn’t lie to you, would it? Well, maybe not lie, as in tell outright blatant whoppers. No government agent would do that. But your beneficent leaders, having only in mind that which is best for you, made competent and upright by virtue of their office, wouldn’t shade the truth in the direction that increases their power just for the sake of increasing their grip and control over you. Would they?

Would they?

Good question, that. Makes you wonder why the Environmental “Protection” Agency conducts so much of its work behind closed doors inside locked rooms in subterranean rooms guarded by armed agents.

Did you not know the EPA arms its agents?

The EPA tells citizens, “You don’t need to know how we got our results, just know that what we have decided is right and true and necessary. We’re experts and this is Science.”

Yet some of us are suspicious—not of the honesty of our highly paid government environmentalists; no, sir! We are suspicious that with the cataract of regulation gushing out of DC that perhaps, just perhaps, one or two slight errors might have been made. It would thus be good if citizens were allowed to see the ingredients of the secret sauce the EPA claims is healthful and nutritious, not because we doubt the honesty of the EPA chefs, but because mistakes happen.

Members of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology have thus proposed H.R. 4012, better known as the Secret Science Reform Act of 2014. It’s goal: “To prohibit the Environmental Protection Agency from proposing, finalizing, or disseminating regulations or assessments based upon science that is not transparent or reproducible.”

Here is almost the whole of the bill, leaving out the introduction and caution that the bill won’t trump other laws:

(b)(1) The Administrator shall not propose, finalize, or disseminate a covered action unless all scientific and technical information relied on to support such covered action is:

   (A) specifically identified; and
   (B) publicly available in a manner that is sufficient for independent analysis and substantial reproduction of research results…

   (A) the term ‘covered action’ means a risk, exposure, or hazard assessment, criteria document, standard, limitation, regulation, regulatory impact analysis, or guidance; and
   (B) the term ‘scientific and technical information’ includes—

     (i) materials, data, and associated protocols necessary to understand, assess, and extend conclusions;
     (ii) computer codes and models involved in the creation and analysis of such information;
     (iii) recorded factual materials; and
     (iv) detailed descriptions of how to access and use such information.

One might say, and say truthfully, that this bill encapsulates the scientific method itself. Yet the reaction will be, as it always is when challenging self-knighted experts, how dare you.

A good guess is that they’ll also say, “If we are forced to show people our work, it will slow down the process.” They will think this is a criticism. They won’t understand that they are using a viciously circular argument. The bill’s intention just is to slow the process down so that only verified, reproducible, solid science is used in making decisions. Some wag will probably release a study (with proprietary guts) which shows that if this bill passes, this-and-such many people will die and suffer. Get ready for some top-level comedy.

This bill is meant to remove politics from Science.

Way it works now is the EPA makes a proposed ruling based on occult methods. It allows the public to comment on the ruling, but the comments are boxed and shipped unread to the same warehouse where they keep the Ark of the Covenant. And then the EPA implements its new regulations.

Way it should work is that the EPA does what it likes, but must show the country exactly what data, assumptions, and computer code went into its judgments. This is the way Science is supposed to work.

Isn’t it?

Background on the bill

A staff member of the Subcommittee on Environment sent me these notes on the background of the bill (i.e., it was not I that made rule makings into one word):

Examples of EPA secret science:

* EPA continues to rely heavily on secret data in major rulemakings, including in upcoming ozone standards, which the Agency has admitted could be the most expensive regulation in history.

* EPA frequently relies on undisclosed, proprietary models. Its recently-proposed New Source Performance Standards for power plants, which will functionally prohibit new coal plants in this country, was based upon one of these models.

* The Agency’s chemical risk assessments are routinely based upon taxpayer-funded studies in which the underlying data is not made public, even when members of the public send FOIA requests for the information.

* Virtually all Clean Air Act regulations under this Administration have been justified based upon nontransparent health data. The Science Committee was forced to issue its first subpoena in more than 20 years to try to obtain the basic scientific information behind dozens of multimillion and billion dollar rules.

Justifications:

* The American people are going to foot the bill for these multimillion and billion dollar regulations; they have a right to see the underlying data.

* Transparency and reproducibility are basic tenets of science. Costly environmental regulations should only be based upon data that is available to independent scientists and the public.

* A 2013 poll from the Institute of Energy Research found that 90 percent of Americans agree that studies and data used to make federal government decisions should be made public.

* These provisions are consistent with the White House’s scientific integrity policy, the President’s Executive Order 13563, data access provisions of major scientific journals, and the recommendations of the Administration’s top science advisors and the Bipartisan Policy Center.

* There are major concerns about the quality of published scientific findings even in peer reviewed journals. As The Economist stated late last year: “Modern scientists are doing too much trusting and not enough verifying—to the detriment of the whole of science, and of humanity. Too many of the findings that fill the academic ether are the result of shoddy experiments or poor analysis.”

* National Academy of Sciences, 2005: “When government-funded research is used for decision making, data sharing allows for analysis of problems by investigators with diverse perspectives.”

————————————————————

Image source. Hockey stick. Get it? Get it?

27 Comments

  1. Richard Nixon is vilified for obstruction of justice to cover up a petty burglery. Unleashing the EPA is a more monumental crime.

  2. Well, maybe not lie, as in tell outright blatant whoppers. No government agent would do that.

    Of course not. “If you like your health care plan, you’ll be able to keep your health care plan” was only said something like 19 times separate times. Doesn’t count if you have your fingers crossed.

    Anyway, the EPA totally ignored the data when coming down on DDT so I don’t see why the EPA needs any data at all, secret or not.

  3. Who will review this data? Of course any lobbyist group will employ teams specialists to analyze all the data. Perhaps WB Statistician to the Stars, may even find regular employment!
    I predict that “grave concerns with the data/method/result” will be found in every instance where there is a financial risk. Of course this scrutiny is a good thing, but what will keep the EPA from then moving forward with policy without purposefully addressing the concerns?
    If they fail to divulge all or part of the information what will the penalty be? how will it be enforced?
    If EPA subcontracts an investigative agency which employes proprietary equipment, materials or methods (Hockey Stick), will they be required to release all data, methods, etc. in a timely fashion?
    If investigative research involves human experimental subjects who will protect the identifying information of the subjects from reviewers? Will we be able to determine if the EPA is violating ethical standards involving either animal or human subjects?
    How timely will this information be made available prior to consideration or implementation of policy, years, months or days?
    Also,
    1)The act will require language protecting it from any possible “end run” exceptions such as Presidential Orders, Judicial Orders, National Security exceptions and the like.
    2) Make it retro actively effective to 2004

  4. Gary: It was Nixon who proposed and signed to law the EPA.

  5. Sheri – I think that’s what Gary’s point was. We should vilify Nixon for the EPA possibly more than a petty burglary.

  6. Need to add several items:
    Any new rules must comply with requirements and processes set forth in the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act or other applicable law that the mandate is attached to.
    EPA is NOT following the laws and, in many cases, sidesteps them. EPA is not in compliance with any of the requirements. Fiscal, monetary, cost to cure, scientific and available technology…EPA ignores all of it.
    Both acts REQUIRE that there is available and current technology to address the rule and mandate.

    As it is, EPA demands that we implement their Unobtainium Non-existent Super technology or some wet dream based on one lab bench top test no one has been able to duplicate.

    Another is the review process of the ‘science’….. selection of SRB participants, how the questions are selected and how this information is handled. I have been through too many of these hearings and seen first hand how it is steered and manipulated.

    It is CRITICAL that this passes and more people become aware of it. NOW.

  7. The EPA has been lying from the get go and they still lie. Remember they declared DDT a class A carcinogen and banned it despite the lack of evidence. BTW, nobody knows what causes cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute.
    http://training.seer.cancer.gov/disease/war/

  8. None of this will see the light of day with a split government, we all know that. It’s got veto written all over it.

    I think what few people realize is that if the right ever gets control of all 3 sectors of government, such as the left had in 2008, the EPA’s mandates can be re-written at will.

    It was necessary for the Supreme Court to interpret the Clean Water Act to cover CO2 because the rest of the government refused (were incapable) to clarify it with proper legislation.

    All it takes is a simply clarification from Congress that CO2 is not to be covered by
    the Clean Water Act and the EPA’s global warming regulatory house of cards falls immediately.

    My guess is this worst case fear is in the back of the green’s mind when they institute new regulations. If they go too far and cause measurable and clearly traceable economic pain, there will be a self fulfilling prophesy of the EPA’s mandate being rejected, and updated by the voters. Thus the obfuscation of intent and execution.

    The greens need to be careful of getting what they wish for from the EPA…

  9. “Your government wouldn’t lie to you, would it? Well, maybe not lie, as in tell outright blatant whoppers. No government agent would do that. But your beneficent leaders, having only in mind that which is best for you, made competent and upright by virtue of their office, wouldn’t shade the truth in the direction that increases their power just for the sake of increasing their grip and control over you. Would they?”

    Dr. Briggs, I think a better word than “lie” in this case is “confabulate” – the production of fabricated, distorted or misinterpreted memories about oneself or the world, without the conscious intention to deceive. Confabulation is distinguished from lying as there is no intent to deceive and the person is unaware the information is false.

  10. Nate: Oh—I must have been having a “blonde” moment! Now I see, she says!

    Bob: I suppose some are unaware of their lies, but I doubt all of them are. There does seem to be a clear intent to deceive, as in the case of Obamacare. As things progress, it seems more and more like there is a concerted effort to deceive, especially with the attempt to silence critics.

  11. “I suppose some are unaware of their lies, but I doubt all of them are. ”

    Sheri, I am confident that in the end the truth will rise to the top but until it does I prefer to give everyone the benefit of the doubt in that they were not deliberately
    lying but in their own minds they were merely being righteous. Confabulations are manifestations of the human drive to make sense of the world.

  12. Gee! What a day–I can’t disagree with anything anyone says (so far). …and thus does politics make strange bedfellows of us all.

  13. Bob M: I realize you were trying to be diplomatic. However, I lived much of life surrounded by deliberate liars, pathological liars and confabulators. I understand the difference. Given the sheer number of falsehoods out there, statistically, I’m betting we will find several who lie and are fully aware of it. I honestly don’t know which is most fearful—an outright liar or someone who is “being righteous” but is actually spreading inaccurate or false information. The latter lacks purposeful action, but is nonetheless very damaging to society in every way.

  14. Well, Sheri, what can I say? I hope we don’t find any out-and-out liars but if we do I think we should turn them over to you for punishment and I’ll back you all the way.

  15. The question is….can you be an effective politician without lying or stretching the truth or not fessing up to the whole truth?

    When you are thrown into a den of wolves and taking the high road only leads to ineffectiveness and political failure…and the most successful use deception on a regular basis…the dark side looks mighty inviting. We elect people to effectively represent our interests, not win sainthood.

    Not using deception in poker and negotiation are paths to poor outcomes. For example, telling the Taliban exactly which day you will be pulling out for sure doesn’t help you in a negotiated peace attempt.

  16. Bob M: I’m good with that.

    Tom: I did not realize that a “poker face” was a deception. I thought it was a blank slate.
    Deception in negotiations in war and similar things may be acceptable, but what about the business man who “spins” his losing business into a winning one so he can make a fortune off it before it tanks? Are you saying this is acceptable because “everyone does it”, or “we just expect it”? I can’t tell.
    I don’t think any politician is ever really honest but I don’t think that means it’s okay to lie.

  17. Call it the cynical view.

    I am saying that politics and sales are where deception is expected, and if you don’t play the game by the rules in place, you will have less favorable outcomes. Winning the trust of the other side can be a good long term strategy, but not always. Obama may not have been honest about the ACA, but he sure was effective. Does anyone trust anything he says about it now? Was it worth it? Depends on which side you are on I guess.

    Business fraud is against the law. See Enron. Publicly held companies have a much tighter set of rules on disclosure than privately held companies.

    I am all for tightening up the rules of Wall Street, but exploiting the rules in place is something that should be anticipated. High speed trading is an example of legal exploitation with no value added to the common investor. It is effectively insider trading by milliseconds and should be shut down. Legal, yes; moral, no. Clever, definitely.

    What the Feds need to do is make some very high profile arrests and send some people to jail for a very long time. Too many times we have seen legal exploitation which violate the spirit of the laws in place. But I digress…

  18. It’s interesting people accept their highest office holder being a genuine liar/confabulator, yet there are laws against this in business. Seems business should have more leeway than the guy with his finger on the trigger, so to speak. Mostly I think we have this backward. Shouldn’t we tighten the standards our leaders are held to? They have far more effect on society than Enron or Rose Law Firm, etc.
    Yes, it’s a cynical view. I do understand. I just can’t sign on. It’s just the way I am. I still believe right is important and should be strived for whether or not it ever “wins”.

  19. Brandon Gates

    June 9, 2014 at 7:04 pm

    Tom,

    The question is….can you be an effective politician without lying or stretching the truth or not fessing up to the whole truth?

    This thread is a poster-child example of why I do my best to leave partisan politics in the gutter where it belongs.

    Oh, and the answer is “no”. Lying in politics is a necessary evil as you’ve already amply described.

    Call it the cynical view.

    Cynical does not mean what many people seem to think it means.

  20. Sheri,

    Don’t confuse my acceptance of how the game is played with my approval of the rules in place. If we so disapprove of Congress (10% approval rating), why do we keep sending our local representatives back (80% incumbent re-election rate)?

    It’s a paradox.

    If we want to win a knife fight, we better send in someone who is skilled with a knife.

    As much as it pains me to accept it, politics is a real skill and some people are good at it, and some people aren’t. I want my side to be represented by people who are good at it.

    We can take some solace in the fact that the US system is on the whole less corrupted than most, but it sure seems to still smell bad in my opinion.

  21. Milton Hathaway

    June 9, 2014 at 9:48 pm

    The root of this EPA problem, like so many others, is that the federal government has an excess of power and a deficit of accountability.

    I like the idea of a constitutional amendment that allows the states to vote, in a manner determined by each state, to vacate any Federal government action. The required vote would be:

    – One-third of the states could vacate any federal action that originates outside of the three branches – Congress (House and Senate), Executive (President) and Judiciary (Supreme Court).

    – One-half of the states could vote to vacate any federal action approved by one branch; a three-fifths vote would vacate a two-branch action; a two-thirds vote would vacate any three-branch action.

    – A vacated federal government action cannot be reinstated for five years, unless sustained by vote of the states consistent with these percentages.

  22. The EPA is like the UN – if we didn’t have an EPA, we’d have another EPA. We could just do without an EPA, but you’d have to be about as stupid as a lump of coal (ie; a conservative voter) to think that’s a good idea. We are a massive nation of over 300,000,000 people (not all conservative voters), among the most advanced in living standards on the planet, with all the commensurate energy, chemical, biological and physical needs. We the people, through our elected constitutional government (that conservatives loathe), have to make sure that the moral vacuums out there (ie; people on the Right) aren’t spewing contaminates into our food, air, water, etc.

    JMJ

  23. Brandon Gates

    June 9, 2014 at 11:54 pm

    Har har, Jersey. For your sake, I hope you’re for nuclear power. As in yesterday.

    If you are, go tell the environmental left to stop killing 10-30,000 people per annum keeping those coal plants in bidness because fission is even more dirty and unsafe.

    If you’re against fission power, check your own moral compass, and/or connection with reality before you go around slamming conservatives for having a monopoly on vacuous arguments. Ta.

  24. And somehow you found a way to get more vacuous! How do you guys do it?

    “The Left” doesn’t have much of a say in any of this. The trouble with the coal business has to do with new technology in gas extraction. Nuclear power isn’t worth the investment, a purely market driven consideration. Even the new pollution standard goals are a drop in the bucket, nothing compared to proposals the Right was embracing just a few years ago. But the Right has moved so idiotically to the Right lately, even small standard changes are too much for them. It’s like they’re just plain ol’ pro-pollution now.

    JMJ

  25. Brandon Gates

    June 10, 2014 at 3:21 am

    Jersey: DOE projections for new plants coming online in 2018 show nuke power on par with coal. None of that diminishes from a three decade long lobby from the environmental left against the safest and cleanest source for baseload electrial power.

    If the left really believed in market driven solutions, they would have relaxed their stranglehold on the NRC, streamlined the permitting process, and actually have done something about putting a dent into not just CO2 emissions, but also gadzillions of tons of particulates and carcinogens.

    And somehow you found a way to get more vacuous! How do you guys do it?

    You’ve got me confused with someone who gives two turds about political parties. I’m no fan of Republicans whose major strategy has been to tie up Congress by saying “no” to everything after the neocon agenda imploded.

    Nor do I have any love for the Democrats who are too soft and disorganized to capitalize on that phenomenal failure. Which they didn’t deserve credit for given the great lay-down of 2003 when they let the neocons walk all over them like a doormat and into Baghdad looking for yellowcake fairy dust while simultaneously promising that the oil would pay for the whole picnic.

    Unscrew your brain and realize that they’re in the game for themselves, are not honest people, and will lead an entire herd of their own sheep right off the edge of a cliff if they thought there was a buck in it.

  26. GoneWithTheWind

    June 10, 2014 at 10:23 am

    Another consideration would be that an honest reading of the constitution would inform you that the EPA does not have jurisdiction over state and private lands and actions. It certainly has authority over BLM lands, federal parks and monuments and federal buildings. But the constitution not only doesn’t authorize them to regulate the state and it’s citizens but specifically prohibits it.

  27. Unfortunately, the funding for climate alarmism is extremely large. Here’s an indication of the magnitude from NAS:

    “The U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) comprises thirteen federal research agencies. It has received approximately $2.5 billion in federal funding each year for the last three years, which it then distributes to its constituent agencies.”

    http://www.nas.org/articles/short_circuiting_peer_review_in_climate_science

    And the Republican-controlled House is not cutting back, despite criticisms:

    “According to the 2010 Climate Assessment Report that the U.S. submitted to the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change), the USGCRP projects were “extensively reviewed by scientists, federal agency officials, stakeholders, and the general public.” But, as detailed in another ITSSD publication (and summarized by NAS), the peer review processes were compromised, flawed, not transparent, and potentially biased—despite the fact that federal laws and regulations require the EPA to back its findings with rigorous, peer-reviewed science.”

    “Nevertheless, the federal government continues to fund these research projects, and Congress in the fiscal year 2015 Appropriations bill (H.R. 4660) approved funding increases for NSF ($233 million increase), NASA ($250 million increase), and NOAA ($10.5 million increase).”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

*

© 2016 William M. Briggs

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑