Data Quality Act
The failure to get Senate approval for the Job Creation and Wage Enhancement bill did not prevent other efforts to introduce barriers and obstacles to environmental legislation. One sucessful effort was the Data Quality Act (also known as the Inforamtion Quality Act) which proved successful at forestalling and delaying environmental legislation.
The Data Quality Act "provides a mechanism for parties to magnify differences between scientists in order to avoid regulation and victim compensation". Because environmental regulations are very often based on uncertain science, it is easy for opponents to claim the science does not prove the need for regulation beyond all doubt (see Casting Doubt) and for industry to commission studies that come up with contrary studies.
Center for Regulatory Effectiveness, and added to the bill by Rep. Jo Ann Emerson, a former lobbyist.
The act requires federal government agencies to "issue guidelines ensuring and maximizing the quality, objectivity, utility and integrity of information (including statistical information) disseminated by the agency" and to "establish administrative mechanisms allowing affected persons to seek and obtain correction of information maintained and disseminated by the agency that does not comply with the guidelines".
In effect the act requires an unreasonable degree of certainty about environmental and health risks before legislation can be enacted. Under Office of Management and Budget (OMB) guidelines, independent peer review is necesary but not sufficient for influential information to be accepted. Studies must be reproducible, industry groups and allies can challenge the data or analysis at any point during the regulatory process, and if the agency rejects the complaint they can take it to court.
The act therefore enables industry groups to challenge the science on which regulations may be based even before those regulations are formulated. This is particularly problematic for environmental agencies because science is often emerging and environmental impacts can seldom be proven beyond doubt. It also rusn counter to the precautionary principle which says lack of scientific proof should not be an excuse not to do something about a potentially serious environmental hazard.
In 2004 the Washington Post found that 32 or the 39 challenges to regulatory agency data under the data quality act had been "filed by regulated industries, business or trade organizations or their lobbyists", most often against the Environmental Protection Agency, the Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Institues of Health and the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
The first lawsuit filed under the act was by the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI). In 2003 the CEI used it to bring a lawsuit against against the White House Office of Science and Technology (OSTP) with regard to the National Assessment of Climate Change, seeking to prevent public release of the report. CEI's initial challenges to the report under the act had been rejected by the EPA and the OSTP. The out of court settlement meant the report was labelled as not subject to the Data Quality Act, enabling the Bush Administration to ignore it.
The act was used to prevent the EPA from banning the herbicide atrazine, which was banned by the European Union in 2005. Peer-reviews scientific studies showing that atrazine was a hormone disrupter were in conflict with poor quality studies commissioned by the manufacturer of atrazine. Tozzi, who had received funding from atrazine manufaturer Syngenta through his consultancy Multinational Busienss Services, used the act that he had in effect written to argue that studies showing the effects of atrazine on frogs had not been reproduced by Syngenta-funded scintists and therefore the evidence was not good enough. He also argued that the EPA did not have a suitable test to prove atrazine's adverse effects.
In 2003 the Act was used to discontinue the internet publication of Guidance for Preventing Asbestos Diseas Among Auto Mechanics on the grounds that the EPA had not done enough analysis to conclude that brake mechanic work was hazardous because of the presence of asbestos.
Other cases included:
- The American Chemistry Council and others challenged data used by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) as it sought to ban wood treated with heavy metals and arsenic in playground equipment.
- Logging groups challenged Forest Service calculations used to justify restrictions on timber harvests.
- Sugar interests challenged the Agriculture Department and the Food and Drug Administration over dietary recommendations to limit sugar intake.
- The Salt Institute and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce challenged data that led the National Institutes of Health to recommend that people cut back on salt.
- The Nickel Development Institute and other nickel interests challenged a government report on the hazards of that metal.
- The Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers petitioned the CPSC to retract data that ranked the risk of lint fires in various clothes dryers.
- 'Data Quality Act', Wikipedia