Since Republicans took full control of Washington, Central Texas Congressman Lamar Smith has become a leading voice in setting the party’s agenda when it comes to science and environmental regulation. But some worry that agenda could have a chilling effect on research and policy.
As head of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, Smith made a name for himself challenging widely accepted science on climate change, including subpoenaing researchers and government officials with whom he disagrees.
“Let me to confess to you all, I was the first Science Committee chair in 21 years to issue a subpoena. Twenty-one years ago, a chairman issued one subpoena. In the last Congress, I actually issued 25,” he recently told an approving crowd at a forum of climate science skeptics hosted by the conservative Heartland Institute. “Let me say, I don’t anticipate issuing near that many in the current Congress.”
Smith’s notion that many environmental regulations are based on suspect or nonexistent data is refuted by most in the scientific community. But it’s gained political traction since Trump took the White House. One of his bills that has already passed the House this year requires the Environmental Protection Agency to make new policies based only on research that uses data that’s publicly available.
“In our modern information age, federal regulation should be based only on data that is available for every American to see and can be subjected to independent review,” Smith said at the Heartland Institute event.
It sounds like a modest proposal, but some worry it could have a negative effect on public policy.
Jonathan Samet, who directs the University of Southern California’s Institute for Global Health, says the debate over when to make scientific data publicly accessible was sparked, in part, by two studies about air pollution.