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Letter from Congress Member Emerson to OMB Director

May 6, 1999

The Honorable Jack Lew
Director, Office of Management and Budget
243 Old Executive Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20503

Dear Director Lew:

I am writing to enquire about the status of OMB's efforts to issue rules, as required by the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995, to govern the quality of data and information that Federal agencies disseminate to the public. Through the Conference Report on the FY 1999 OMB Appropriations Act (part of the Omnibus Appropriations Act, Pub. L. 105-277), Congress urged OMB to issue final rules on data quality by September 30, 1999.

My inquiry is prompted in part by the enclosed analytical "Working Paper" by the Center for Regulatory Effectiveness (CRE), "How OMB Data Quality Regulations Will Help Resolve Disputes Over Global Warming."

The paper is a case study of information presented in the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA's) Internet site on "Global Warming." The paper does not address the merits of the science regarding global warming and global climate change, and the role of human activity in contributing to any such phenomena; instead, it addresses how EPA presents the available body of science to the public on the EPA Web site.

The paper concludes that EPA's presentation of the available scientific information and important caveats is unbalanced or selective, and incorrect in several specific examples, and is likely to mislead readers.

I believe that when the Federal Government provides information to the American public about a complex scientific issue such as global warming and climate change, the Government has an obligation to provide information that is accurate and is presented in a balanced manner, so that the user can understand the scientific complexities and the caveats and limitations inherent in the data and methodologies employed.

The EPA's Internet site on "Global Warming" appears to be a good example of why OMB needs to issue regulations to improve the quality of data and information that Federal agencies disseminate to the public.

Please let me know:

  1. What is OMB doing to issue regulations to improve the quality of data and information that Federal agencies disseminate to the public?

  2. When specifically does OMB plan to issue proposed and final rules?

  3. Any comments that you have on the CRE paper and its conclusions. In particular

    A. Do you agree that the information presented on EPA's "Global Warming" site is likely to mislead readers, and why or why not?; and

    B. Do you agree that OMB regulations on "data quality" should provide a mechanism whereby affected persons could petition a Federal agency to correct information that the agency is disseminated to the public, such as the information examined in the CRE paper, and why or why not?

I would appreciate receiving your reply by May 21, 1999, so that the Appropriations Subcommittee on the Treasury, Postal Service, and General Government can consider OMB's intentions regarding "data quality" rules as we proceed to mark up the FY 2000 spending bill.


Jo Ann Emerson
Member of Congress