Groucho Marx advised that if a man says he’s honest, “you know he is a crook.” The House of Representatives would be well advised to take his advice when considering the HONEST Act (HR 1430) on the floor today. This legislation, with an incredibly strained acronym, threatens to undermine the vast majority of the science EPA undertakes. Coupled with a second bill also on the floor this week, the EPA Science Advisory Board (SAB) Reform Act (HR 1431), it is part of a larger effort to gut science at EPA and make it harder to protect public health and the environment.
The HONEST Act is a bad rebranding of an old bill that should fall as flat as “New Coke.” Originally called “the Secret Science Reform Act” the bill would prevent EPA from relying on the majority of the studies that they currently use to make decisions about public health and the environment. The SAB Reform Act would absurdly establish a preference on the EPA Science Advisory Board for industry scientists with potential monetary conflicts over academic researchers that have taken EPA grants for research. The claimed purpose of both bills is to improve “transparency” at EPA. But, skipping over the details of the very bad policy, which you can find elsewhere (see here, here and here), let’s look at who is behind these awful bills.
Fortunately, we can look at the Congressional lobbying records to find who has been lobbying on these bills in the past several years. The answer: big business with an interest in oil, gas, coal, and other pollution that EPA might regulate.
So, what are they up to? Well, it’s possible that Koch, the coal giant Peabody, and Exxon have a genuine interest in improving the quality of science at EPA. Or, these corporations figure that, by restricting EPA from using the type of studies that established the dangers of tobacco, they can delay EPA action on pollution and toxic chemicals.
Which one is it? Well, they told you they’re being “HONEST,” what would Groucho say?