A law favored by business groups because
it potentially makes it tougher for federal agencies to impose costly
regulations wouldn’t apply to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric
Administration (NOAA) if a Senate spending measure becomes law.
Business lobbyists were preparing to contest the provision in the
Senate commerce, justice and state appropriations bill that would
place NOAA’s research, data-collection and analytic efforts
outside the reach of the Data Quality Act (DQA).
satellite image of
hurricane karl courtesy of noaa
|A provision in an appropriations bill would
affect NOAA’s research and data-collection as it pertains
to the Data Quality Act.
But it wasn’t clear at
press time who was sponsoring the provision, or why it targets NOAA,
which is responsible for tracking climate changes and managing fisheries.
The provision, slipped in at the last minute to the spending package,
would make NOAA the only federal department exempt from the DQA.
That law, which Congress passed as part of a larger appropriations
measure in 2000, has been embraced by industry groups because it
allows stakeholders to challenge the information that agencies use
to adopt rules.
Businesses, for example, could challenge the rules but not the information
on which they were based before the passage of the DQA, which was
signed by President Clinton.
“The right likes it because it tries to introduce sound science
into the process,” said one energy lobbyist who favors the
An Aug. 16 article in The Washington Post reported that
in the first 20 months since the act was fully implemented, it had
been used mostly by industry. Of the 39 petitions filed that sought
more than technical changes to agency rules, 32 were filed by regulated
Environmental and consumer-advocacy groups, meanwhile, say the DQA,
as implemented by the Bush administration, raises the bar too high
when it comes to creating a new rule to address a problem.
OMB Watch, a nonprofit group that monitors the White House Office
of Management and Budget, calls the DQA “industry’s
tool to distort science and block needed protections.”
“It’s unnecessary,” said Sean Moulton, a senior
policy analyst at OMB Watch. “What it does is add another
bureaucratic layer to an already overloaded and slow regulatory
Several sources said they doubted that the provision exempting NOAA
would survive a conference with the House. The White House seems
likely to oppose it, and it wasn’t clear at press time who
its chief advocates were.
“We didn’t seek the exemption. We believe in the quality
of our science and we are willing to open it up to scrutiny,”
said Scott Rayder, the chief of staff to NOAA Administrator Conrad
Lautenbacher, a retired Navy vice admiral.
NOAA’s mission includes monitoring and researching changes
in the atmosphere, including weather patterns and ozone holes. NOAA
also manages and conserves coastal and marine resources. Its fisheries
division regulates an $80 billion industry.
The website for the Center for Regulatory Effectiveness (CRE), a
group founded in 1996 to provide analyses of agency regulations
and a strong advocate of the DQA, speculated that the provision
was put in by advocates who want to impose new emissions requirements
on companies in response to concerns about global warming.
“By exempting NOAA, this provision will prevent an honest
evaluation of the science of climate change from occurring and ensure
that future policy decisions are based not on sound science but
rather on junk science,” a posting on the site said.
Others suggested that the provision was put into the bill as a possible
aid to fisheries.
According to the CRE, only two petitions have been filed at NOAA
using the DQA. Both related to the management of fisheries in the
Northeast and were filed by industry groups.