Scientists Petition Against E.P.A.’s Proposed “Transparency” Regulation
A new proposal announced by the E.P.A. last Tuesday would re-standardize the kinds of scientific research the agency can use when developing and issuing environmental policies. This proposal, created for the purposes of “transparency” in science, would require researchers to make their data publicly available — a regulation critics say would severely limit the amount of information available to the agency.
Making raw data from scientific studies publicly available would, according to E.P.A. administrator Scott Pruitt, allow independent verification of results.
“The era of secret science at E.P.A. is coming to an end,” Pruitt said in the agency’s news release. “The ability to test, authenticate, and reproduce scientific findings is vital for the integrity of the rulemaking process. Americans deserve to assess the legitimacy of the science underpinning EPA decisions that may impact their lives.”
However, such a requirement also eliminates decades’ worth of scientific research, since many studies depend on confidentiality agreements between the scientist and the subject.
One case that would be eliminated from E.P.A. usage under this regulation is the Six Cities study. Published in 1993 by researchers at Harvard University, this landmark study found a link between air pollution and premature deaths and has since influenced much of the legislation on air quality in the U.S.
A group of nearly 1,000 scientists also signed a petition addressed to Pruitt, calling on the E.P.A. head to not go through with the new regulation proposal.
Among the group’s concerns is the issue of “independent validation,” a tenant that could not be upheld by the regulation since that would imply the intention of recreating one-time events, such as the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
“In reality, these are phony issues that weaponize ‘transparency’ to facilitate political interference in science-based decisionmaking, rather than genuinely address either,” the petition states. “The result will be policies and practices that will ignore significant risks to the health of every American.”
This ambitious maneuver is the latest in a series of controversial actions undertaken by Pruitt, a known denier of anthropogenic climate change who has also worked to undo many Obama-era regulations during his time in office.
Pruitt is also under flack for alleged ethics violations. He faced a congressional hearing last Thursday that confronted him on 10 federal inquiries, including charges of subverting White House authority when he raised the salaries of two E.P.A. employees and of spending taxpayer money on a 24-hour security staff three times larger than the staff of anyone previously in his position.
“Inserting new levels of transparency in the E.P.A. rulemaking process will help make the agency more accountable to the American people and help everyone understand the impact of E.P.A.’s decisions,” said Republican Senator Mike Rounds of South Dakota, a proponent of the new E.P.A. proposal. “Today’s directive is a significant step toward making sure these decisions are not made behind closed doors with information accessible only to those writing the regulations, but rather in the full view of those who will be affected.”