By Valerie Volcovici
2 February 2017
(Reuters) – Scientists may steal a page from the oil industry’s playbook to stop President Donald Trump rewriting the U.S. position on climate change, by relying on an obscure law meant to ensure federal agencies present accurate information.
The 2001 Information Quality Act, passed under Republican President George W. Bush, has for years provided a way for companies and their lobbyists to challenge federal agencies’ assumptions on issues ranging from the threats posed by global warming to the health effects of petrochemicals.
Now, as Trump’s leadership seeks to get the Environmental Protection Agency into line with the new administration’s more pro-business and anti-regulation agenda, the act could become a tool for rebellious scientists and climate advocates, legal experts said.
Trump has expressed doubts about the science behind climate change, putting his administration on a collision course with an overwhelming majority of scientists who believe that human consumption of fossil fuels is warming the planet and triggering sea level rise and more frequent powerful storms.
A spokesman for Trump's EPA said last week that the agency's website is under review, raising worries of a rewrite that could put the site at odds with EPA employees' own research. A Trump administration official did not respond to a request for comment.
"Posting blatantly false information on the EPA's website would violate the Information Quality Act," said Romany Webb, a climate law fellow at Columbia University. "The guidelines clearly state that information disseminated to the public, including via a website, must be substantively accurate."
Michael Halpern, deputy director for the Center for Science and Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists, a non-profit climate science advocacy group, said the Information Quality Act could be one of the options scientists consider using to ensure federal agencies match scientific research. [more]