Lamar Smith Wants to Make the EPA Great Again by Diluting Its Power

Rep. Lamar Smith is back to doing his anti-climate change thing, but this time around he's hoping the Trump administration will back him up.
Rep. Lamar Smith is back to doing his anti-climate change thing, but this time around he's hoping the Trump administration will back him up. Photo from NASA

Representative Lamar Smith, the San Antonio Republican that has been waging a battle against climate change science since becoming chairman of the House Space, Science and Technology Committee, has rolled out his plan to improve the federal Environmental Protection Agency under President Donald Trump.

Smith's big idea? He wants Trump to alter how the EPA uses science.

On Tuesday Smith decried the Obama administration’s employing science to justify new environmental regulations.

“Legitimate science should underlie all actions at the agency, from research to regulations, and be an integral part of justifying their actions,” Smith said in opening a hearing he christened “Make the EPA Great Again," a not so subtle play on Trump's campaign slogan.

“Unfortunately, over the last eight years, the EPA has pursued a political agenda, not a scientific one," Smith continued, before concluding that this political interpretation of scientific facts is now a thing of the past. With Trump at the helm, Smith stated during the hearing, they will be able to right the ship that is the EPA and to "steer the agency in the right direction."

Smith is intent on correcting the EPA's course by reviving the Secret Science Reform Act, a bill Smith failed to get through Congress back in 2014 that proposed to rip away the veil of privacy on scientific research by opening it up to judicial review, as we've previously reported. Back then, the proposed legislation didn't have much chance of becoming law since President Barack Obama was clear that if the bill came across his desk he would veto it.

But it's an entirely different situation under the Trump administration. Under Trump, the EPA “can once again become an agency that is credible and respected,” Smith said during the hearing, adding in more opinions that will provide a more "balanced" take on scientific findings. (How exactly one can cultivate a more "balanced" approach to global warming — a trend of rising temperatures that 97 percent or more of currently active and publishing scientists agree is happening — is unclear, but it will be interesting to see what Smith comes up with.)

Democrats have long criticized Smith's pet legislation, contending that the measures will simply restrict the data the EPA can use. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, a Dallas Democrat and the highest ranking member on the Science Committee, sounded off against the entire concept of "secret science" at the hearing.

Johnson accused the GOP of “preemptively limiting scientific input” and raising unnecessary questions about the entire scientific process.

“I’m disappointed, but not really surprised, that the very first hearing of this Congress will be focused on attacking the Environmental Protection Agency, as was so often the theme of our hearings the last Congress,” Johnson said. “The efforts by some to undermine how the EPA and other federal agencies use science threatens our economy, threatens public health, threatens the environment, threatens public confidence in our government.”
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Dianna Wray is a nationally award-winning journalist. Born and raised in Houston, she writes about everything from NASA to oil to horse races.
Contact: Dianna Wray