By Farron Cousins, DeSmogBlog.com
Fresh off the August recess, the United States Congress is finally getting back to business. But rather than focusing on pressing issues like a potential war, looming budget deadlines, and the growing problem of student loan debt, some Republican lawmakers thought it was the perfect time to pick up where they left off before their recess – attacking the Environmental Protection Agency.
Texas Republican Lamar Smith, chairman of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, is enraged that the EPA is not “complying” with a subpoena that his committee issued, requiring the agency to hand over all documents and studies relating to standards issued by the EPA.
According to Smith, this information is vital for the public, as the safety standards that it spurs cost the public “trillions of dollars,” he wrote in a letter to the EPA. Smith never specifies how he came up with that figure, and research shows that regulations put in place by the EPA actually save taxpayers much more money than they cost. Smith’s letter has given the agency until September 16th to hand over the documents.
The EPA has responded to Smith and the Committee, claiming that handing over the research would violate the privacy of the private entities that conducted the research, which is a direct violation of the contracts that the agency hands out to do the research. And since private companies conducted the research, the EPA argues that the Committee has no authority to subpoena non-government documentation that is not relevant to their jobs.
Additionally, the EPA has already handed over relevant information to the committee, and each new regulation put forward by the agency is supported by research and documentation. Smith’s request has less to do with transparency, and more to do with tying up the agency’s resources.
According to Open Secrets, Congressman Smith has received a career total of more than $530,000 from the oil and gas industries.
Smith’s insistence that the EPA hand over research is just the latest attack on the agency in recent years. Before they took their August recess, House Republicans proposed a 34% funding cut for the EPA. As long as oil and gas money continues to flow to lawmakers, the attacks on environmental agencies are likely to continue.
Farron Cousins is the executive editor of The Trial Lawyer Magazine and a contributing writer at DeSmogBlog.com.