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Secret provision tucked into Farm Bill would grind rulemaking to a halt. Because science.

When the American Association for the Advancement of Science comes out against a proposal called the “Sound Science Act,” it’s time to pay attention.

But, you see, the “Sound Science Act,” tucked ever so quietly in the must-pass, House-approved Farm Bill, would essentially bring all pending regulatory actions to a grinding halt – all in the name of science. In short, it would choke public protections through “paralysis by analysis.”

The provision would require that the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy develop a set of guidelines based on complicated, confusing, and arbitrary congressional mandates for using science in agency policymaking, and would require agencies to create procedures based on those guidelines.

It’s not like federal agencies had not already taken a science-based approach to implementing policies. Even though agencies already have in place long established methods for using science, the provision’s myriad new requirements constitute a procedural obstacle course for agencies -- hamstringing their actions by asking them to defend and justify any scientific judgments they make, greatly delaying crucial public protections.

Beyond slowing down the process, the “Sound Science Act” would require cash-strapped agencies to do duplicative and often meaningless work. For example, under the requirements of this provision, before the Occupational Safety and Health Administration could conclude that a wet floor in a workplace was a hazard, it would have to commission a peer-reviewed study!

Now imagine what would happen with a more nuanced workplace hazard… Yeah. But an agency like OSHA, which only has the resources to inspect a workplace once every 131 years, should have no problem meeting these arbitrary guidelines and still providing adequate protections to workers, right? Right?!

To add insult to injury (pun not intended), if agencies failed to comply with these arbitrary and onerous new procedures, they could be challenged in court where non-expert judges would make the final decisions on complex issues that demand our best and most independent scientific and technical expertise.

These new burdens would give corporations seemingly endless new opportunities to challenge crucially needed public protections, making it nearly impossible for federal agencies to use science to protect public health, safety and the environment.

As if enacting public protections weren’t hard enough already, this provision would give corporations another tool to paralyze the rulemaking process. Because science.

The Senate should ensure that this harmful provision is removed from the final farm bill.

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