OMB Watch reports that “The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has removed one database from its public website and slightly altered another due to a Data Quality Act (DQA) challenge submitted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.” The Chamber claims some of the data are erroneous, inconsistent and contradictory.
The Data Quality Act is less than half a page in a public law of more seven hundred pages (Public Law 106-554 Sec. 515; Statutes at Large volume 114, pages 2763A-153 to 2763A-154, available online as plain text and as pdf). The Act is nominally about requiring the government to set standards for the accuracy of scientific information, but is controversial because it was supported and largely written by industry-backed groups which have are using it to challenge government data. Successful challenges such as this one can result in the data being withdrawn from publication and withdrawn from government web sites.
OMB Watch notes:
[S]cientists concerned about the DQA and OMB’s subsequent peer review standards have stated that scientific certainty and identical results are an impossible and unreasonable standard for scientific information.
While instant access to the most up-to-date data is a desire of any information user, EPA and other federal agencies must operate in the reality of limited resources. Industry seemed to realize this impossible standard, and used the opportunity to push for information removal, which has been a growing side effect of the DQA. This ultimately means less health and environment data getting to the public.