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Senate Mounts Sneak Attack on Sound Science

The Competitive Enterprise Institute wrote the following:

In a behind-the-scenes move with far reaching implications, the Senate Appropriations Committee last week approved a bill including language that would shield one of the federal government’s most important scientific agencies from legal requirements mandating integrity in government science. A clause in the annual appropriations bill for the Department of Commerce and other agencies (S. 2809) would exempt research produced by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration from complying with the Federal Data Quality Act, which requires that data circulated by federal agencies conform to standards of scientific integrity.
Exempting the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) from complying with the Data Quality Act is a clear attempt to circumvent Sound Science.

The Hill quotes the following from the website for the Center for Regulatory Effectiveness:
“By exempting NOAA, this provision will prevent an honest evaluation of the science of climate change from occurring and ensure that future policy decisions are based not on sound science but rather on junk science,”
Greenie Watch, Tracking the politics of fear had this to say about the Data Quality Act (which by the way was signed into law by President Clinton):
The act, passed with little fanfare as part of a 2000 appropriations bill, gives the regulated a fighting chance to challenge the quality of the science used by the government in formulating the rules it imposes on the rest of us.

The law not only has the potential to overturn government regulations that are based on immature or slipshod science, but to finally bring some semblance of parity to the endless struggle between the regulators and regulated.

But Washington doesn't like to play fair, or to be challenged on its supposed expertise on everything under the sun. The political process is increasingly driven by a sense of crisis that only sensationalized science can generate. And that makes the act a prime target of the regulate-first, worry-about-the-science-later crowd.

The Post portrayed the law as the "nemesis of regulation" and fretted about its use by "industry" to challenge federal rulemakers on the scientific merits. The story warned ominously that the law, under President Bush, "has become a potent tool for companies seeking to beat back regulation" - though a careful read suggests otherwise. All this could only be viewed as worrisome by those who assume that all government regulations are, ipso facto, beneficial, cost-effective and justified by science.

But we don't share those assumptions. Regulations are routinely handed down from on high based on questionable, immature and incomplete science, thanks to something called "the precautionary principle," which licenses the government to act on the mere suspicion that something might be harmful to human health. Whether these potentially costly actions are scientifically justified is a question frequently put off for another day, and then promptly forgotten, while the regulations live on in perpetuity. And where is it written that individuals, businesses and industries shouldn't be permitted to fight back?