Senate Panel Advances Bill To Stop EPA From Using Clinical Data In Setting Regulations

On 28 April, a Senate panel approved a measure that would prohibit the Environmental Protection Agency from issuing regulations based on science that is not transparent and reproducible. The legislation would stop EPA from using clinical data that require protection of patient confidentiality as the agency sets health-based pollution standards for air, water, and soil. The so-called Secret Science Reform Act clears the way for the full Senate to vote on the measure. The House of Representatives passed a companion bill, H.R. 1030, on a partisan vote last month. The White House has threatened a presidential veto of the legislation. Republicans are pushing the bill because EPA has objected to their requests for access to raw health data, citing the need to protect the confidentiality of patients’ clinical health information. The type of data EPA can use as the basis for regulation is especially pivotal for the agency’s air quality standards on ground-level ozone and particulates. The regulations are expensive for industry but reap significant health benefits for millions of Americans. The chemical, electric power and manufacturing sectors are heavily impacted by air standards and sometimes request access to the health and economic data that EPA relies on in setting its rules. GOP members of the Senate Environment & Public Works Committee approved the bill over strong objections by Democrats. The legislation’s sponsor, Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), says the measure would ensure that EPA uses only the best publicly available science to regulate. But the bill “would make it nearly impossible for EPA to develop policies, guidance, or regulations informed by the best available science,” says Andrew A. Rosenberg of the Union of Concerned Scientists. “The legislation may sound reasonable, but it’s actually a cynical attack on EPA’s ability to do its job.” Some scientists say the measure is unfair because industry researchers do not have to make their data public, claiming that such results are confidential business information. Environmental health researchers are concerned that any new requirements on EPA to release confidential health data will constrain their ability to recruit people for future studies.

Chemical & Engineering News, 28 April 2015 ; ;