Bilge From the AAAS–a commentary by the Union of Unconcerned Scientists

I call them unconcerned because they play a key role in the promotion of junk epidemiology and toxicology that has become cover for EPA sponsored junk science to justify fraudulent claims that support bad policy and regulations.

Epidemiology that relies on small associations doesn’t prove anything but the EPA claims it does.

Toxicology following the method of linear no threshold and using very high, even lethal levels of exposures on rats and mice doesn’t prove human toxic effects at ambient level exposures but the EPA makes it the foudation for their scare programs.

So the Union of Concerned (leftist enviro) Scientists doesn’t want any fact or methods checking.

Wonder why? Well it’s because some serious application of rules of scientific methodology and the EPA portfolio of epidemiology/toxicology scare machine built on the crazy precautionary principle blows up and their claims of saving thousands, hundreds of thousands of lives, every year with their regs are irreparably damaged in the explosion.

So, if you have any doubts about the politics of the AAAS-consider John Holdren was their president a few years ago even though he was well known to be a working colleague of the charlatan people haters and predictors of the now way overdo apocalypse, Stephen Schneider and Paul Ehrlich.

964 29 MAY 2015 • VOL 348 ISSUE 6238 sciencemag.org SCIENCE
PERSPECTIVES
INSIGHTS
By A. A. Rosenberg, 1 * † L. M. Branscomb ,2 *
V. Eady, 3 * P. C. Frumhoff ,4 *
G. T. Goldman ,1 M. Halpern, 1 K. Kimmell ,4
Y. Kothari ,1 L. D. Kramer, 5 * N. F. Lane, 6 *
J. J. McCarthy, 7 * P. Phartiyal ,1 K. Rest ,4
R. Sims, * C. Wexler 1

SCIENCE AND REGULATION

Congress’s attacks on science-based rules
Proposed laws based on false premises could undermine science for the public interest

There is a growing and troubling assault
on using credible scientific
knowledge in U.S. government regulation
that will put science and democracy
at risk if unchecked. We
present five examples, and the false
premises on which they are based, of current
attempts in the U.S. Congress in the
supposed pursuit of transparency and accountability
but at the expense of the role
of science in policy-making.
Over the past century, the federal government
has striven to protect public
health, safety, and the environment. Many
statutory mandates require administrative
agencies to craft regulations informed by
credible, legitimate, and salient scientific
assessments ( 1, 2) that prescribe actions
and obligations of government entities, private
sector enterprises, and individuals to
protect the public interest. The federal laws
that create these science-based mandates—
such as the Clean Air Act, the
Occupational Safety and Health Act,
and the Consumer Product Safety Act—are
perceived as inconvenient and expensive
by some corporate actors. Consequently,
congressional leaders are pressured to render
these long-standing and well-regarded
laws ineffective by undermining their scientific
foundations ( 3).
This should raise alarm among all scientists.
Each year, thousands of experts from
academia, industry, and government serve on
agency advisory panels and boards, peer-review
panels, and National Academies’ study
committees. Many more conduct research
relevant to important public policy decisions.
The regulations that result from these scientific
inputs have led to profound improvements
in air and water quality,
protections for workers and the public,
and environmental safeguards ( 3).
Regrettably, five major bills have recently
advanced in the U.S. Congress that would
transform the scientific advisory process.
Four passed the House of Representatives
ILLUSTRATION: DAVIDE BONAZZI
POLICY
Published by AAAS
Downloaded from http://www.sciencemag.org on May 30, 2015
29 MAY 2015 SCIENCE sciencemag.org • VOL 348 ISSUE 6238 965
last year but failed to advance in the Senate.
Four of the five bills were reintroduced
and three passed the House this year; with
the fourth likely to pass soon. All have Senate
sponsors. Although effective advocacy by
scientists has helped stymie their progress
thus far, any of these bills could be attached
to must-pass legislation, and some presidential
candidates are already embracing them
as necessary reforms.
The bills employ insidious, albeit creative,
approaches to weaken the ability of science
to inform federal rule-making. One approach
is to shift regulatory decisions from
career employees in federal agencies working
with experts to politicians in Congress
vulnerable to special-interest influence. The
Regulations from the Executive in Need of
Scrutiny (REINS) Act, which backers say will
make regulatory agencies more accountable
and reduce undue burdens on businesses,
requires joint congressional approval within
70 legislative days for any new or updated
major rule with an annual economic impact
of $100 million or more. If either chamber
fails to act, the agency cannot move forward
with the rule until the next Congress convenes
and jointly approves the rule. The act
suggests no criteria for Congress in evaluating
a rule. Agencies, on the other hand,
must adhere to specific statutory requirements—
including basing decisions on science
in many cases—and must defend their
decisions in court. Given the current gridlock
on Capitol Hill, few regulatory protections
would survive both houses of Congress.
Rather than increasing accountability—
which of course is a worthwhile goal—the
proposed mechanism for approval would, in
effect, prevent science-based rules from ever
being implemented.
A second approach is to tie up federal
agencies in additional and redundant bureaucracy,
even as their budgets decrease.
This will make efficient rule-making even
more difficult if not impossible. The Regulatory
Accountability Act, with a stated goal of
reducing costs to business, passed the House
in February, and imposes more than 70 new
requirements on development, analysis, and
public engagement processes that agencies
must follow in updating or creating new rules
( 4). This includes additional formal administrative
hearings that would give regulated industry
and others the opportunity to directly
challenge and cross-examine the agency on
the science underlying its cost-benefit analysis.
The act makes the least costly approach
the default option for new public health and
safety regulations even if it is less protective,
a change from current laws which typically
prioritize public health protection over cost.
The act also gives the White House Office of
Management and Budget the power to override
independent scientific advice on the
costs, benefits, and risks of proposed regulations,
enabling implementation of regulations
that might not reflect the best available
science as required by statute.
Or take the Sound Science Act. Introduced
in the House last year and likely to resurface
in the current Congress, the legislation
is ostensibly designed to improve the scientific
basis for regulations. The bill requires
agencies to hold additional public comment
periods specifically on all scientific findings
throughout the process and each time a new
finding is considered. Furthermore, agencies
must give “greatest weight to information
that is based on experimental, empirical,
quantifiable, and reproducible data.” But, as
scientists know well, and as AAAS (American
Association for the Advancement of Science,
which publishes Science) has noted ( 5), some
good science cannot be easily subjected to
reproducible experiments. Should modeling
studies be excluded? Is qualitative information
not to be considered? The decision about
how to weigh different types of information
should be a scientific decision, not a political
mandate. Although, in many cases, such
weighting may be appropriate, this decision
should be left to technical experts who understand
how to interpret the data. Otherwise,
decisions might not be based on the
best understanding of the scientific evidence.
A third approach is to limit the information
that regulators can use. The Secret Science
Reform Act, passed by the House in
February 2015, mandates that the Environmental
Protection Agency (EPA) may only
put forward a regulation if all of the data,
models, methods, and other information in
the science studies used in its development
are publicly available, accessible, and reproducible.
Supposedly, the data are required
so that the “public” can analyze the data for
themselves, although, in practice, it is likely
that special interest groups will hire scientists
to reanalyze the data to cast doubt on
results that are not to their liking in order
to delay the regulatory process. Although
1Center for Science and Democracy, Union of Concerned
Scientists, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA. 2University of
California, San Diego, La Jolla, CA 92093, USA. 3Conservation
Law Foundation, Boston, MA 02110, USA. 4Union of Concerned
Scientists, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA. 5William and Flora
Hewlett Foundation, Menlo Park, CA 94025, USA. 6Baker
Institute of Public Policy, Rice University, Houston, TX
77005, USA. 7Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 02138,
USA. *Steering Committee member, Center for Science and
Democracy, Union of Concerned Scientists. †Corresponding
author. E-mail: arosenberg@ucsusa.org
Five major bills have recently
advanced in the U.S. Congress
that would severely limit the
scientific advisory process.
Published by AAAS
INSIGHTS | PERSPECTIVES
966 29 MAY 2015 • VOL 348 ISSUE 6238 sciencemag.org SCIENCE
scrutiny of the science used in rule-making is
important, this act would drain time and resources
from rule-making processes that already
include expert peer review, the release
of summarized data, and ample opportunities
for public and stakeholder input.
Although greater access to data can be a
laudable goal, confidential health records,
confidential business information, or protected
intellectual property should not be
disclosed. And although the bill carefully
states that it does not require the release of
confidential information, the EPA is prohibited
from moving forward with a regulation
unless all data are public. So although EPA
is charged with protecting public health,
say with regard to ozone or mercury emissions
from power plants, it may not utilize
any studies that analyze confidential public
health data as a basis for action. This restriction
applies to any actions the agency might
take from rule-making to guidance, standard-
setting, or scientific assessment of toxic
substances. In other words, the EPA may not
act on the basis of data it is legally restricted
from releasing; therefore, it may not act.
A fourth approach is to change the
composition and operation of the science
advisory process itself. The EPA Science
Advisory Board Reform Act, passed by the
House this year, would set a quota for state,
local, and tribal government officials and
clarify that industry experts with ties to a
regulated industry are not barred from advisory
board membership, while barring
independent scientists from serving if they
have received an EPA grant within the last
3 years (and preventing their acceptance of
an EPA grant for 3 years after they serve).
Concurrently, the legislation makes it difficult
for board members to discuss their scientific
views that are not already published.
Procedurally, the board is required to solicit
and respond in writing to public comments
on the state of the science and may
not place time limits on that process. In
reporting back to the EPA, the board must
ensure that the views of the public are reflected
and encourage dissenting members
to report their views. Taken together, these
changes give political and legal operatives
greater influence over the advisory board
while marginalizing independent scientists,
as well as greater opportunity for frivolous
and resource-consuming challenges to the
board’s findings.
Procedurally and monetarily, any of these
proposals, if enacted, will delay and complicate
an already complex regulatory process.
The Congressional Budget Office estimated
that the Secret Science Reform Act alone
could cost EPA $250 million annually at a
time when its mandate has increased and its
budget has been cut ( 6).
The bills described above are based on
three false premises. The first premise is that
regulations put forward by federal agencies
reflect agency and executive branch “overreach.”
In reality, the rule-making process
provides many opportunities to check such
overreach, including by the judiciary.
The second premise is that corporations
need more opportunity to influence the
scientific information used in rule-making.
But many industries already support technically
proficient scientists and skilled
advocates in every step of the process to
argue their perspectives ( 7). By comparison,
community groups and many civil society
organizations can never match corporate
resources for influencing government.
The third premise is that regulations
only impose costs on industry, and public
benefits are negligible. Yet just 10 rules proposed
in the last 5 years are estimated to
result in saving more than 10,000 lives and
preventing 300,000 cases of disease, illness,
or injury annually ( 8). Nine of the 10 rules—
including actions on protecting workers
from silica exposure, controlling mercury
pollution, and preventing salmonella contamination
in eggs—are estimated to have
monetized social benefits that substantially
exceeded monetized compliance costs even
though many benefits cannot be monetized
( 9). Further, it is important to recognize
that risk-mitigation costs not borne by industry
will not evaporate but will become a
public burden.
Attacks on the science advisory process as
the foundation of regulatory action have a
profound, chilling effect on the willingness
of scientists to contribute to the process of
advancing critical health, safety, and environmental
protections. Restrictions on expert
participation, requirements for multiple
rounds of public comments, and procedural
hurdles will subject the advisory process
to greater industry and political influence
and discourage independent scientists from
participating in advisory activities. Many
scientists are honored to serve the public
as independent experts to inform the policy
process, and most do so without compensation.
As barriers for participation rise, their
willingness to engage will plummet. The end
result may be that mostly experts paid by
special interests will serve.
The scientific community needs to push
back. Elected officials respond to constituents,
and there are scientists in every congressional
district. With leadership from
professional societies and scientific organizations,
scientists across the country should
tell their members of Congress how much
they value the opportunity to engage in informing
policy and how important it is that
these attacks on the process are defeated.
The present system is far from perfect,
but there are better solutions to ensure that
science advice remains reflective of the evidence
and resistant to special interest manipulation.
To that end, with leadership from
professional societies, science-based organizations,
and academic institutions, better
pathways must be created for independent
scientists to share their expertise. This includes
providing greater training for early
career scientists on the advisory process and
creating career-based incentives and time for
them to participate. It also includes institutionalizing
professional recognition for work
and activity that informs policy-making. Public
service should be a central component of
what it means to be a scientist.
Further, public trust in science increases
when we all have access to the same base
of evidence. To that end, we must improve
and fully implement conflict of interest and
disclosure standards and strengthen peer
review while increasing the public accessibility
of scientific information. The stakes
are high, as our collective well-being and
the strength of our democracy depend on
our success. ■
REFERENCES
1. W. C. Clark, G. Majone, Sci. Technol. Human Values 10, 6
(1985).
2. National Research Council, Analysis of Global Change
Assessments: Lessons Learned (NRC, Washington, DC,
2007).
3. Center for Public Integrity, “Consider the source: Chamber
spends early, often on GOP congressional candidates”
(CPI, Washington, DC, 2012); http://www.publicintegrity.
org/2012/03/09/8356/chamber-spends-early-often-gopcongressional-
candidates.
4. R. V. Percival, C. H. Schroeder, A. S. Miller, J. P. Leape,
Environmental Regulation: Law, Science and Policy (Aspen
Press, New York, 2013).
5. E. Kesler, Modernization? The Regulatory Accountability
Act of 2015 Adds 74 New Steps to the Rule-Making Process
(CPRBlogs, Center for Progressive Reform, Washington,
DC, 2015); http://www.progressivereform.org/CPRBlog.
cfm?idBlog=CFEFB5B4-9B44-75BE-CF2636189D408F57.
6. AAAS, Statement on Farm Bill section 12307 (AAAS,
Washington, DC, 2014); http://www.aaas.org/page/
aaas-statement-farm-bill-section-12307.
7. Congressional Budget Office, “Cost Estimate: H.R. 1030
Secret Science Reform Act of 2015” (CBO, Washington, DC,
2015); https://www.cbo.gov/publication/50025.
8. T. O. McGarrity, W. E. Wagner, Bending Science: How Special
Interests Corrupt Public Health Research (Harvard Univ.
Press, Cambridge, MA, 2008).
9. Center for Effective Government, The Benefits of Public
Protections: Ten Rules That Save Lives and Protect the
Environment (Center for Effective Government, Washington,
DC, 2014); http://www.foreffectivegov.org/node/13160.
“The bills use insidious…
approaches to weaken the
ability of science to inform
federal rule-making.”
10.1126/science.aab2939
Published by AAAS

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