Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator, Scott Pruitt, signed a new rule proposal Tuesday to restrict decades of scientific studies that the EPA can use when writing environmental regulatory standards.
The proposal, kept a secret until just before its signing at EPA headquarters, aims to increase “transparency” in the methodology behind scientific findings and cut back on what Pruitt has deemed “secret science.”
The new rule would remove decades-long landmark studies on the health impacts of air pollution, pesticides, etc. from being used in environmental regulatory decisions. This is because many of the studies which were conducted over the course of decades signed a confidentiality agreement with the subjects to not share their personal information as part of the study. Hence, the data was anonymized and reported to the EPA with the requirement that personal information on each subject not be shared with the public.
Therefore, the new rule long sought out by conservatives would eliminate any study that agreed to not release personal information from being considered in making environmental decisions.
Scott Pruitt claims the rule will make the EPA more transparent in allowing anyone the opportunity to inspect the study and personal information that went into it. When, in fact, it literally throws out fundamental and hallmark environmental studies the EPA paid scientists to conduct and build the foundation of many of our air and water quality guidelines.
Speaking in front of a number of well-known climate change skeptics including the Competitive Enterprise Institute’s Myron Ebell, Pruitt claimed the new rule would require science to “be transparent, reproducible and able to be analyzed by those in the marketplace.”
Pruitt said the new ruling shows “an agency taking responsibility for how we do our work, in respecting process … so that we can enhance confidence in our decision making.” He also called the current process which had, until now, allowed science to be peer-reviewed rather than open to public scrutiny, “simply wrong-headed.”
Details surrounding the event and rule proposal were kept secret until 30 minutes before the EPA’s Twitter account announced it would be live-streamed. Reporters were not invited to attend.
“With false claims about transparency, the political appointees at the EPA are drastically restricting the ability of the agency to rely on science,” said Andrew Rosenberg, the director of the Center for Science and Democracy at UCS. “They are ordering EPA employees to put on blinders and only see the science that they want them to see. They are sacrificing the health of Americans in favor of special interests, a disturbing pattern for this Administration. It’s no coincidence that the same people calling for this change have been funded by the petrochemical and tobacco industries for years. Pruitt has turned his back on the American people to stick his snout deep in the trough of corruption.”
Nearly 1,000 scientists signed and sent a letter to Scott Pruitt urging him not to move forward with his proposed rule.
In the letter, the scientists write: “There are ways to improve transparency in the decisionmaking process, but restricting the use of science would improve neither transparency nor the quality of EPA decisionmaking. If fully implemented, this proposal would greatly weaken EPA’s ability to comprehensively consider the scientific evidence across the full array of health effects studies. This would negatively impact EPA public protections that reduce levels of lead, harmful chemicals, and fine particle pollution, among others.”
Seven Democratic Lawmakers sent a letter to Pruitt on Tuesday denouncing his new policy.
The letter, led by Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), tells Pruitt, “Your proposed new policy likely violates several laws with which EPA must comply as the agency writes rules to protect our air, water and land from harmful pollution.”
“Courts have explained that ‘best available science’ means that agencies ‘should seek out and consider all existing scientific evidence relevant to the decision’ and ‘cannot ignore existing data,’ ” the letter read.