Data Quality Act Debated

Data Quality Act experts, featuring OMB Watch’s Sean Moulton, will be debating the faults and merits of the Data Quality Act (DQA) at a March 30 discussion hosted by the Environmental Law Institute (ELI). Among the law’s aspects to be discussed are judicial review, and its implications for environmental protections. Since its passage as an unnoticed rider on an appropriations bill, which underwent no debate in Congress, the DQA has been criticized as an unnecessary bureaucratic requirement that unfairly allows industry to delay, dilute and derail environmental, health and safety protections. The act, and its subsequent guidelines developed by OMB and federal agencies, allow affected parties to challenge and recommend corrections of information disseminated by agencies. However, the DQA itself does not specifically address whether challengers may take their complaints to court if unsatisfied by an agency’s response after all administrative avenues are exhausted. Public interest groups view the prospect of judicial review as another method to delay agencies from enacting important environmental protections. Groups also contend that court review would allow companies to shift responsibility for complex scientific information from the most experienced officials to less knowledgeable and less experienced courts in hopes of getting a more favorable decision. Industry advocates claim that judicial review is an essential tool in achieving transparency and accountability on DQA. A recent court ruling found the DQA is not judicially reviewable, and prompted ELI to hold this discussion. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Salt Institute sued the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute under the DQA regarding agency statements that recommend lower sodium consumption will improve the health of all individuals. The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia dismissed the case, ruling both that the DQA is not judicially reviewable and that the plaintiffs lacked legal standing to file the lawsuit. OMB Watch’s Senior Information Policy Analyst, Sean Moulton, will participate in the initial panel debate. The other panel members will be Jim Tozzi of Center for Regulatory Effectiveness and Rena Steinzor of the Center for Progressive Regulation and the University of Maryland’s Environmental Law Clinic. Tozzi, a former OMB official, is often credited with writing the DQA. ELI’s announcement has more details including RSVP details and how to listen to the discussion by phone.
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