Yesterday, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) advanced another chapter in its effort to restrict the Agency’s use of the best available science by announcing a supplemental proposed rule that applies even more broadly than its original ill-conceived proposal. Despite strong opposition and concern expressed by the scientific community, environmentalists, and policymakers, indeed, EPA’s own Science Advisory Board, the Agency continues its push to censor science. This effort is an unnecessary, unwise, and unlawful waste of EPA time and taxpayer resources.
“The bottom line is that EPA is making the already challenging task of protecting public health and the environment even more difficult. This proposal does little to create actual transparency. And it is an arbitrary and unlawful abuse of Agency discretion which EPA simply has no clear authority to pursue,” said Hayden Hashimoto, an attorney with Clean Air Task Force. “Any rule that impairs EPA’s use of the best available science is incompatible with the agency’s mandates under various environmental statutes, including the Clean Air Act,” he said.
EPA’s directive that all data be made public undermines the science because the reality is that participants in these studies have the right to demand that personal health information be kept private, and scientists generally agree to do so. EPA should not propose any rule that jeopardizes this practice. Simply weighing studies more heavily based on the publicly availability of the personal of the study subjects would not cure this defect because it has no relationship to the quality of the science.
The supplemental proposal would expand the attempt to stifle the use of science by going beyond application to regulatory actions to cover any “influential scientific information” used by EPA. Rather than facilitating actual transparency, the new effort appears designed to limit the scope of scientific studies EPA can rely on or exert influence over how the agency relies on them.
Hashimoto noted “this effort is particularly outrageous. EPA’s influential scientific information should be just that: purely scientific information. To inject policy priorities into influential scientific information (as this does) flips the issue on its head: rational environmental policy must be based on science, not the other way around!”
CATF will work to ensure that quality scientific research cannot be ignored or devalued merely because researchers choose to protect – or are required to protect, by various other statutory directives – the privacy of study participants.