Roll Call: The good science scam and an undemocratic provision

by Wendy Wagner

December 30, 2013

Some members of Congress apparently do not want agencies to regulate powerful agricultural and pharmaceutical interests in order to protect the public from dangerous risks. Yet, rather than say that — and be held accountable to the electorate for the consequences — they have developed what has become a standard, indeed almost boilerplate pretext to hide their endgame.

Specifically, they have drafted a provision snuck in as a rider to a farm bill that requires agencies to develop elaborate “high standards” for the use of science before they can regulate. Even more problematic than their obscurity is the fact that rather than deferring to the scientific community’s idea of what these high scientific standards should be, congressmen establish the rules of the game on their own. Given their politically-charged origins, it is thus not surprising that these congressionally developed rules are decidedly not in the public interest, nor are they consistent with the true “high standards” of science.

“Good science” sounds like a good thing, like motherhood and apple pie. But, those who spend their lives studying the tedious details of regulations and laws understand that there is plenty at stake in this type of provision. Most obvious is the fact that complying with the additional scientific procedures will slow the agencies’ work further still as they invest added effort into the new ambitious procedures and prepare for inevitable litigation challenges. Lawyers call these types of added mandatory provisions “attachment points,” because high stakes players can latch onto them and use them to bring a seemingly endless stream of legal challenges against the agency, slowing down its work to a snail’s pace.

Read the entire piece here.

 

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Also from Wendy Wagner

Wendy E. Wagner is the Joe A. Worsham Centennial Professor at the University of Texas School of Law, Austin Texas. Prior to joining the University of Texas Law faculty, Professor Wagner was a professor at the Case Western Reserve University School of Law and School of Management, and was a visiting professor at the Columbia Law School and the Vanderbilt Law School.

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