July 20, 20173:58 PM ET
Heard on All Things Considered
A pump jack at work in 2016, near Firestone, Colo. The American Exploration & Production Council, which represents oil and gas exploration firms, is one of many industry groups supporting the HONEST Act, which was passed by the House and is now with the Senate.
Groups that represent industries from farming to fracking are supporting a legislative push to rewrite how government handles science when drawing up regulations.
And the whole effort has scientists worried.
Consider, for example, the Honest and Open New EPA Science Treatment Act, or HONEST Act, which passed the House in the spring and now is with the Senate. Just how “honest” it is depends on whom you ask.
The HONEST Act says the EPA can’t take a particular action based on scientific research unless that research is “publicly available online in a manner than is sufficient for independent analysis and substantial reproduction of research results.”
Trouble is, making all that data widely available in such detail isn’t always possible — past studies may not have all this documentation. And it’s a huge burden to require that everything from raw data to computer models be made available to outsiders, says Thomas Burke, a professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, who was a science advisor at the EPA.
“To say that every study needs to have the data out there — this is code for ‘We are going challenge it — to raise issues of uncertainty and play the delay game’ that was so successfully played, unfortunately, with things like tobacco,” says Burke.