People have the right to defend themselves against bad science

The Greens have launched a massive and coordinated attack on EPA’s proposed regulation to end the use of “secret science” in Agency rule making. Secret science here simply means research that is not available for public inspection. The proposal is called the Transparency Rule and it is available for public comment here.

The basic principle is that if EPA proposes to regulate the public, then the public has a right to inspect the research used to justify that regulation. This seems obviously fair and just but the Greens do not see it that way. They think EPA should be able to do whatever it wants, behind a veil of scientific secrecy.

So the Greens are flooding the EPA comment system with mindless negative comments. At the time of this writing the Agency lists over 150,000 comments, the vast majority of which simply attack EPA for daring to propose transparency. Given that the comment period has been extended to mid-August this number is likely to get much bigger.

This attack is being coordinated by several Green Groups, especially the so-called Environmental Defense Fund. The idea behind regulatory notice and comment is to help the agency gets the rules right. It is not a referendum on the proposal, but that is how EDF sees it. They just want to generate 100,000 or more identical Green comments denouncing this proposal. There is nothing useful here, just the usual loud noises from the left.

EPA says on their comment website that they will only post substantive comments. It is then no wonder that less that 2% of the comments have been publicly posted. Even these are mostly worthless negative attacks.

There is also a green press campaign, in parallel with the personal attacks on EPA Administrator Pruitt. Here the ever-green New York Times has the lead. They have run a series of articles and op-eds attacking both Pruitt and the Transparency Rule.

One particularly silly NYT piece is titled: “Scott Pruitt’s Attack on Science Would Paralyze the E.P.A.” It begins by complaining that the Rule allows the EPA Administrator to exempt and use secret science if it is especially important. The Greens should like this provision, since it is just what they want. Instead the op-ed says that Pruitt is a lawyer, not a scientist, so he is not qualified to make such a decision. In reality this is standard exemption language, so the decision would be made by the regulatory office, including their scientists.

They then go on to say that the peer review of the journal article reporting the research should somehow be enough transparency. This is simply ridiculous, since peer review of an article does not include data analysis, attempted replication, etc., which the Transparency Rule is designed make available. Peer review is not quality control.

Thanks to what is called the “reproducibility crisis” we now know that there is a lot of shaky peer reviewed science out there. The US National Academy of Sciences now has a standing Committee on Reproducibility and Replication. This ongoing crisis is not really surprising, given that globally there are millions of scientists burning hundreds of billions of dollars a year in research funding and judged by how many articles they publish. Publishing in a peer reviewed journal does not separate good science from bad science.

The Transparency Rule speaks directly to the reproducibility crisis. I have yet to see an attack piece that even mentions, much less addresses, the fairness principle behind this Transparency Rule. Most of the attacks are nothing more that simple minded anti-Trump diatribes.

The critical few that are thoughtful worry about important research being excluded. This is a genuine concern which the final Rule needs to deal with. But in any case jamming the comment system with hundreds of thousands of worthless attacks is a stupid thing to do.

People have the right to defend themselves against regulations based on bad science.


About the Author: David Wojick, Ph.D.

David Wojick is a journalist and policy analyst. He holds a doctorate in epistemology, specializing in the field of Mathematical Logic and Conceptual Analysis.