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House GOP looks to shed light on EPA secret datasets

House Republicans have introduced a bill that would block the Environmental Protection Agency from crafting regulations based on “secret” scientific data.

The Secret Science Reform Act would prohibit the EPA from using data that is not publicly available or replicable. Despite President Barack Obama’s promise to have the most transparent administration in history, the EPA has used secret data sets to justify nearly every regulation proposed under Obama.

Republicans have been after the secret data sets for more than one year, even pressing EPA administrator Gina McCarthy on the issue during her confirmation hearings. In late 2012, the EPA put forward new soot pollution rules based on such secret data sets.

“For far too long, the EPA has approved regulations that have placed a crippling financial burden on economic growth in this country with no public evidence to justify their actions,” said Arizona Republican Rep. David Schweikert, who introduced the bill.

EPA secret data sets were used to justify 85 percent of $2 trillion worth of Clean Air Act benefits between 1990 and 2020. The agency uses such data to state that the benefits of CAA regulations exceed the costs by a 30-to-1 ratio.

The EPA said its soot pollution rule, introduced in late 2012, would reduce soot by 20 percent and force local governments across the country to improve air quality within the next decade. The rule limits soot and fine particulate matter that comes from activities like burning wood and diesel vehicles.

The EPA claims that the health benefits from the soot rule will range from $4 billion to $9 billion per year, while only costing between $53 million and $350 million. The agency said 99 percent of U.S. counties can meet the the new standard by 2020 without taking any additional action.

“Virtually every regulation proposed by the Obama administration has been justified by nontransparent data and unverifiable claims,” said Texas Republican Rep. Lamar Smith, one of the bill’s cosponsors. “The American people foot the bill for EPA’s costly regulations, and they have a right to see the underlying science. Costly environmental regulations should be based on publicly available data so that independent scientists can verify the EPA’s claims.”

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