With Congress Back to Work, Republican Attacks On EPA Resume

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Fresh off the August recess, the United States Congress got back to business today.  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.

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Farron Cousins is the executive editor of The Trial Lawyer magazine, and his articles have appeared on The Huffington Post, Alternet, and The Progressive Magazine. He has worked for the Ring of Fire radio program with hosts Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., Mike Papantonio, and Sam Seder since August 2004, and is currently the co-host and producer of the program. He also currently serves as the co-host of Ring of Fire on Free Speech TV, a daily program airing nightly at 8:30pm eastern. Farron received his bachelor's degree in Political Science from the University of West Florida in 2005 and became a member of American MENSA in 2009.  Follow him on Twitter @farronbalanced.

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