UPDATED WITH COMMENTS: House panel tells EPA, 'show us your data,' as Obama promised

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Photo - Smog and haze hover over Salt Lake City in this file photo. Brian Nicholson/Deseret News/AP/File
Smog and haze hover over Salt Lake City in this file photo. Brian Nicholson/Deseret News/AP/File
News,Mark Tapscott,Watchdog

Congressional leaders are demanding that U.S. Environmental Protection Agency officials make public the science and datasets used in justifying a major new air quality regulation implemented today.

The new rule covers fine particulate matter under the National Ambient Air Quality Standards established by the Clean Air Act (CAA). President Obama, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson and other Obama and EPA officials claim the new rule will produce $1.7 trillion, or 85 percent of the $2 trillion in total benefits resulting from the CAA between 1990 and 2020.

The science and datasets being sought are also the major justification underlying EPA's often-heard claim that CAA benefits outweigh its costs by a 30-1 ratio.

Obama administration officials have promised to make the underlying science and datasets public but the outgoing and incoming chairman of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, as well as the chairman of one of the panel's key subcommittees, are frustrated that the promises have not yet been fulfilled.

The committee leaders want the science and data made public "in a manner sufficient for analysis by independent scientists and researchers. This is especially important as EPA is subjecting taxpayers that funded this research to its costly regulatory consequences, without ever allowing public review or scrutiny of the information."

They also call upon the Obama White House and EPA "to immediately work to make these data sets publicly-available, and ensure that future federal regulatory decisions are based on transparent and publicly-available scientific data."

The letter was sent by outgoing chairman Rep. Ralph Hall, R-TX, his successor as chairman, Rep. Lamar Smith, R-TX, and energy and environment subcommittee chairman Rep. Andy Harris, R-MD.

The Examiner has requested comment from environmental analysts at the Heritage Foundation, Natural Resources Defense Council, Environmental Defense Fund and Competitive Enterprise Institute.

UPDATE: CEI's Horner reminded of Browner refusal to make data public

Competitive Enterprise Institute's Christopher Horner says the Hall/Smith/Harris letter reminded him of a similar situation during the Clinton administration when Carol Browner was EPA Administration:

"Meet the new aggressive, opaque-at-all-costs EPA, same as the old. As in the one led by Al Gore’s handpicked administrator/ later Obama 'environment czar,' Carol Browner. In a remarkably similar case to this, involving the then-most expensive regulations ever under the same provision of the Clean Air Act, Browner’s EPA refused to allow scrutiny of underlying data and methods with a cynical game of hide-the-pea. Their trick was to hire contractors to model their projected scenarios, then hide behind a claim that the information necessary to evaluate their claims was 'proprietary.' They’d love to help and justify their claims but, gee, the evidence belonged to someone else.

"That bureaucratic abuse was so obvious and outrageous as to be a 'last straw' of alarmist claims cloaked in the rhetoric of science and health crisis to scare the public into sympathy for costly ideology, also of course setting up any who dare emerge in opposition as heartless. It directly led to adoption of a law requiring that scientific claims by the government impacting rules and regulations at least meet a minimum threshold for quality (the Federal Information Quality Act)."

UPDATE II: NRDC lauds new reg's benefits

“The EPA’s long-awaited standards for soot are an important win for the American people and our environment,” said John Walke, clean air director at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “Reducing this harmful air pollution will save thousands of lives, while also preventing many more thousands of asthma attacks, heart attacks and incidents of lung disease, lung cancer and heart disease.

“Limiting the tiniest particles will protect us from the biggest health problems, enabling us to enjoy cleaner air and more productive lives. By strengthening the standards for soot, metals and other pollution, the EPA is doing its job under the Clean Air Act to protect Americans from dangerous air pollution,” he said.

UPDATE III: Inhofe says EPA issues rule despite IG probe

Sen. James Inhofe, R-OK and the ranking minority member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, said EPA is moving forward with the new particulate rule despite the fact the agency's inspector-general has an open investigation with a direct bearing on the issue of scientific and data transparency.

The new rule is "the first in an onslaught of post-election rulemakings that will place considerable burdens on our struggling economy and eventually push us over the 'regulatory cliff,'" Inhofe said.

"EPA finalized these standards even though the EPA Office of Inspector General is in the middle of an investigation into EPA's mismanagement of key advisory committees and the scientific data used in its standard setting process.

"In July, I wrote to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson requesting that EPA not finalize any new NAAQS standards for at least one year after the Office of Inspector General completes its investigation, as EPA's failures could have direct bearing on the science underpinning those revisions.  Not surprisingly, EPA pushed ahead, sacrificing sound science and transparency for its agenda of killing oil, gas and coal.”

UPDATE IV: Transparency required for accountability, Heritage analyst says

Diane Katz, research fellow in regulatory policy at the Heritage Foundation, contends the Obama administration must make public the underlying science and datasets in order for the public to judge the cost and benefits of the new rule:

"The administration’s refusal to release the data underlying its regulation denies citizens the opportunity to hold government accountable," she said. "We cannot judge the likely effectiveness of the rule without knowing the data upon which it is based, nor can we determine whether the costs are commensurate with the benefits.

"This is of particular importance with regard to the EPA because the agency has repeatedly failed to meet basic data quality standards. This makes a mockery of President Obama’s purportedly allegiance to government transparency."

Mark Tapscott is executive editor of The Washington Examiner.

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