Congress Seeks New Ways to Hamstring NASA – and Science

April 30, 2015


As the Catholic Church accepts guidance from Science and moves into the 21st Century, the US Congress heads for the Dark Ages.


A Senate committee has advanced legislation that would change how the Environmental Protection Agency uses science to craft regulations intended to protect the environment and public health, the Hill reported Tuesday.

On party line votes, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee voted 11-9 to approve the “Secret Science Reform Act,” a bill to prohibit the EPA from using science that includes private data, or data that can’t be easily reproduced. The bill has been pushed strongly by House Republicans for the last two years, but this is the first time it has been advanced by the Senate. It is sponsored by Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY).

The purpose of the Secret Science bill, according to its House sponsor Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), is to stop “hidden and flawed” science from being the basis of EPA regulations. However, many scientific organizations have disagreed with this characterization.

For example, approximately 50 scientific societies and universities said the bill would prohibit the EPA from using many large-scale public health studies, because their data “could not realistically be reproduced.” In addition, many studies use private medical data, trade secrets, and industry data that cannot legally be made public.

“The legislation may sound reasonable, but it’s actually a cynical attack on the EPA’s ability to do its job,” said Andrew Rosenberg, the director of the Center for Science and Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists, in a statement. “This bill would make it impossible for the EPA to use many health studies, since they often contain private patient information that can’t and shouldn’t be revealed.”

Republicans in support of the bill have countered that the EPA could still use data within the studies without disclosing personal information or trade secrets. But it wouldn’t be cheap for those studies to meet the bill’s requirements, according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). The CBO reported last year that the EPA relies on approximately 50,000 scientific studies to craft its regulations per year, and that meeting the goals of the “Secret Science” bill would cost between $10,000 and $30,000 per study.

When the legislation was moving through the House, Democratic opponents called it disingenuous — a perceived play for “transparency” within the EPA, when all Republicans really want is less EPA regulation. Environmentally-minded Senators on Tuesday seemed to agree. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) told the Hill that the bill was “just a joke,” while Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) — who is expected to announce a Presidential bid on Thursday — reportedly called it “laughable.”

For its part, the White House has already threatened to veto the bill if it does come to President Obama’s desk.

Galileo facing the Roman Inquisition – Cristiano Banti’s

Bad Astronomer:

There’s no other way to put this, so I’ll be succinct: A passel of anti-science global warming denying GOP Representatives have put together a funding authorization bill for NASA which at best cuts over $300 million from the agency’s current Earth Science budget.

At worst? Over $500 million.

The actual amount of the cut depends on whether some caps enacted in 2011 are removed or not. If they are, then Earth Sciences gets $1.45 billion. If not, it gets $1.2 billion. The current FY 2015 budget is $1.773 billion.

Compare that to the White House request for FY ’16 of $1.947 billion for Earth Sciences. The bill will marked up (amended and rewritten) by the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee today.

This, for the space agency which has a critical role in understanding climate change and its effects on our planet.

7 Responses to “Congress Seeks New Ways to Hamstring NASA – and Science”

  1. dumboldguy Says:

    This is not news to those who have followed the Repugnants’ behaviors since Saint Ronnie’s time.

    (An aside—-I watched Dinesh D’Souza’s documentary “America: Imagine the World Without Her” last night. A mind-numbing 1-3/4 hours of right wing propaganda, apologetics, and distortion of history—-and a real laugh riot. The best line in the whole thing was “We no longer have Washington, Lincoln, and REAGAN. We will have to fix the country ourselves”. Reagan “fixed” the country? Lord love a duck and LMAO!).

    The book “The Wrecking Crew: How Conservatives Govern” outlines the strategy the Repugnants have followed. Less regulation, lower taxes, shrink government, more “freedom”. Then when government isn’t able to get the job done, say “SEE, SEE!!??? Government is ineffective!!! It needs to be shrunken down until it can be drowned in a bathtub! (Norquist)”. And we are constantly exposed to other mutterings like “Government is loaded with waste—-privatize all government functions—-BUSINESS people know how to get the job done!”.

    In addition to the EPA and NASA earth science programs, the IRS, FDA, OSHA, FAA, SEC, FBI (white collar crime division) and any other regulatory/ enforcement/ watchdog agencies are under constant attack and threats of starvation from the right. It’s all part of the plan to make the country safe for the greedy rich, run-amok capitalism, “profit”, and growth. (And too many of the voters among the right wing “base” are too freaking stupid to understand that supporting the Repugnants is NOT in their own or the country’s best interests).

    A prediction. If and when the SHTF climate-wise, the Repugnants will heap blame on NASA and NOAA and the other climate science agencies for not doing adequate research and warning us in time.

    • They certainly seem to be in the pockets of entrenched wealth, whether it is the fossil fuel industry, banking and investment, pharmaceutical, or simply the polluters. (Socialize the risks and costs of doing business, privatize the profits.) I believe this is becoming increasingly obvious to more Americans and doubt the Republicans would have done quite so well in the Senate and House this past election had it not been for the hysteria and alarmism they whipped up over Ebola and ISIS threatening Americans at home.

    • neilrieck Says:

      You mentioned Saint Ronnie; I have been on a personal quest to purge all politics from my life so do not read or watch anything related to it. That said, one of my buddies urged me to read this book which I purchased from Amazon for $15. It is titled “Tear Down This Myth: The Right-Wing Distortion of the Reagan Legacy” and is a real eye-opener. Why? The distortion that went into denying science (and climate change) also went into denying the facts of what the Reagan administration did to the USA. Consider this single example of many: “voodoo economics” (label comes from Bush 41) where many on the right actually believe you can cut taxes while simultaneously balancing the budget. This turned the USA into a debtor nation for the first time since world-war-1

      People on the right will continuing to shoot from the hip while blaming current fiscal woes on unions, or teachers, or Obama but this current mess was started by Saint Ronnie.

      p.s. Even though this is the guy who “declared war on the unions”, “traded arms for guns” (Iran-Contra) to get around congress (which is arguably worse than Nixon’s Watergate), began outsourcing which created “the rust belt”, there are numerous efforts today to have Ronald Reagan added to Mount Rushmore

      • dumboldguy Says:

        It’s a shame that you have decided to “purge politics from your life” because “politics” is the root of all evil in the USA today as well as most other places on the planet. Until we deal with “politics”, we will have little hope of solving all the other problems that face us, and the biggest problem is the dirty money that the Citizens United decision unleashed.

        I have read the “Myth” book—a good debunking of Saint Ronnie, the hero of the mindless and willfully ignorant stooges of the plutocracy. Mount Rushmore will never happen, but the fools are STILL naming things after Ronnie all over the country—a new elementary school in my county was just named after him, and I’ll never forget the “government waste” of many hundreds of thousands of $$$$ when the DC Metro subway system had to replace EVERY LAST sign and map that said “National Airport” with new ones that said “Reagan National Airport”. There are many here who still refuse to call it anything but just plain “National”

        I am reminded of the scene in The Green Berets where John Wayne and Sergeant Pruitt discuss suitable names for memorials and Pruitt decides that “Pruitt’s Privy” worked for him (and the movie ends with a shot of Wayne standing in front of said memorial when Pruitt dies). Actually, I think naming every sewage treatment plant and landfill in the country after Ronnie and other prominent moronic Repugs like Inhofe is something I could get behind. Far better than schools, which are meant to be places to celebrate thinking, learning, and FACTS rather than monuments to stupidity.

        If you agree that you need to understand “politics” in order to deal with AGW and all the other problems that run-amok capitalism has brought us, you might read two other books that deal well with what Ronnie started. “American Dynasty” by Kevin Phillips (and all Americans should read his “Wealth and Democracy” as well) and “The Book on Bush” by Alterman and Green. It all began long before Ronnie tore up his union card, and didn’t reach full cry until The Idiot W came along.

  2. redskylite Says:

    I find this attached BBC article very depressing:

    Last year, a Gallup poll suggested that just 7% of Americans had confidence in Congress, a record low.

    If it is true it is surely time to do something positive to re-energize the political system.

    I am concerned that we do something radical to slow the changes we are making to our biosphere and it seems low confidence in the political system does not help. Maybe someone should ask why ? We do not have a whole bunch of time to put our houses in order ….

    If I was a politician from either side of the fence I would expect greater support than 7% – surely something is very very wrong and it is not something a interdisciplinary workshop could not fix.

  3. indy222 Says:

    I hope you all noticed that the GRACE satellites, launched in 2002, are at the end of their mission next year. Without funding for Earth Sciences satellite missions to launch replacements in ’17, we fly blind on seeing how the polar caps and sea level are behaving…

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