One of the biggest post-election winners on Capitol Hill is Representative Lamar Smith, chairman of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee. This soft-spoken Texas Republican has become an unlikely warrior against dubious science used to justify costly federal regulations imposed on American industry, particularly from the Environmental Protection Agency.
Over the past eight years, Obama-administration officials have blocked Smith’s demands for more accountability and transparency at several U.S. agencies. He is now poised to find much-needed support from President Trump, who has called for major changes at the EPA.
“This new administration will help us and we can get to the truth,” Smith told me in his Capitol Hill office last week.
On February 7, Smith’s committee held a hearing cheekily entitled, “Making EPA Great Again.” In his opening remarks, Smith leveled harsh criticism at the agency he accuses of pursuing a political agenda rather than a scientific one.
The EPA has proposed some of the most expensive and expansive and ineffective regulations in history. Huge costs were shouldered by the taxpayer with little to show for it. The previous EPA’s regulations were all pain and no gain.
It’s that bluntness — and his skepticism about man-made climate change ‚Äì that has made Smith a target of environmental activists, liberal lawmakers, and climate cheerleaders in the media. Mother Jones recently compared Smith’s committee to the Spanish Inquisition, and Michael Mann, a leading climate-change activist and author of the infamous hockey-stick model attempting to prove global warming, referred to Smith’s actions as a “McCarthy-like assault on science.” But none of this has deterred Smith: “The liberal media and environmental extremists have not been upfront with the American people [on climate change].”
Smith’s biggest concern is how science is corrupted to reach politically motivated outcomes:
The federal government funds scientists to produce the results the administration wanted, and they feed off each other. They skirt the law, manipulate regulations, and tamper with evidence. The losers are the American people and good scientists.
Some scientists contacted Smith to share their concern about the way science — especially climate science — is conducted at the federal level. In 2015, the House passed Smith’s Secret Science Reform Act that would have required EPA science to be both publicly available for independent review and reproducible. The bill stalled in the Senate amid threats of an Obama veto but could now be revisited.