The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under the climate-denying, fossil fuel-friendly Scott Pruitt is a dark shadow of its former self. Both the scientists and the scientific method itself are being suppressed and denigrated with reckless abandon.
So when a positive-sounding bill named the HONEST Act, which purports to “improve” the science at the EPA, appears in the Senate, it’d be understandable that you might be somewhat suspicious. You’d be right, but first, let’s look at what the bill, put forward by South Dakotan Senator Mike Rounds, supposedly does.
The Honest and Open New EPA Science Treatment Act of 2017 (HONEST) purports to “preserve the integrity of the scientific review process by prohibiting the agency from proposing, finalizing or disseminating regulations or assessments based upon science that is not transparent or not reproducible.”
Science at the EPA has long been considered to be some of the best environmental research in the world, and as a federal agency, it is mandated to make it as transparent as possible. Not so, according to Rounds, who claims that the EPA “has a long history of using questionable and secretive science to justify its actions, often leading to burdensome new regulations that hurt businesses and destroy jobs.”
It’s probably not a coincidence that Rounds was paid more than $200,000 in donations from the fossil fuel industry since 2012. According to the League of Conservation Voters (LCV), he’s only voted for pro-environmental legislation 5 percent of the time throughout his entire career.
So what’s really going on? Critics have pointed out that it won’t be scientists deciding what type of research is “transparent” or not, which means that policymakers will have the final say. This means that they can essentially pick and choose whatever research they want to fit whatever narrative they want.
Considering that scientists are being fired, demoted, or are resigning en masse from the EPA – and being replaced with people who are either non-scientists or those with strong ties to industry – it’s more likely than not that this narrative will be anything but environmental.