Limit Science By Requiring “Transparency” — EPA’s New Strategy

The New York Times reported on Monday that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is preparing to issue a new draft of a controversial rule they floated once before, but have now expanded, that would request raw data for nearly every study the EPA considers in preparing regulatory rulemakings, including confidential medical records.  Fossil fuel companies and Republican lawmakers have claimed that they are disadvantaged in fighting agency rulemakings because the studies’ underlying data is not made publicly available, so they can’t conduct their own independent analysis of the conclusions.

Why This Matters: Scientists and public health groups believe that this proposal will not increase the reliability and public accountability of the rulemaking process.  Instead, this rule will make it more difficult to enact new clean air and water rules because many studies linking pollution to health problems rely on patient information provided under confidentiality agreements.  This would mean that participants in these studies would have to agree that their private health information would be turned over to the government as part of the study results. Oh sure.  How many people do you suppose would agree to that??  And this “transparency” requirement completely ignores the fact that all credible studies have been through “peer review” process to ensure that the science is sound before being published.

It’s Worse, Not Better

When EPA originally proposed this rule in 2018, it was going to apply only to a certain type of research known as“dose-response” studies that look at levels of toxicity in animals or humans.  The prior EPA Administrator had tried to rush it through, but current Administrator Andrew Wheeler put the brakes on the rule to study it further because of the outcry from scientists and other stakeholders.  But according to The Timesa draft of the revised regulation that they obtained reveals the EPA’s determination to widen the rule’s scope to require access to the raw data for virtually every study that the E.P.A. considers.  This would come over the objection of a bipartisan group of more than 100 lawmakers who wrote to the EPA asking the agency to scrap the proposed rule saying, “[c]ontrary to its name, the proposed rule would implement an opaque process allowing EPA to selectively suppress scientific evidence without accountability and in the process undermine bedrock environmental laws.”

EPA In Denial

The Times also claimed that according to emails they obtained, the EPA proposed also to make the new transparency rule apply retroactively to rules in place now — which would mean that many studies on which current rules are based could be challenged — thereby greatly expanding its impact.   Apparently, according to The Hill, the EPA said that this report is false and that the leaked draft rule was out of date and not the latest version.  The EPA says the new draft will come out in 2020.

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