EDF: Trump Administration Must Immediately Halt New Attack on Health Science

Statement from Vickie Patton, General Counsel, Environmental Defense Fund

March 18, 2020
Keith Gaby, kgaby@edf.org, (202) 572-3336

(Washington, D.C.- March 18, 2020) Today EDF sent U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Wheeler a letter asking him to immediately halt a new proposed rule advancing the Trump administration's efforts to censor public health science.

The Trump administration proposal would severely limit EPA's ability to rely on the best available science when making decisions about the protection of public health and the environment โ€“ decisions that affect the lives, health and well-being of all Americans. Published this morning amidst the Coronavirus pandemic, this sweeping and dangerous "supplemental notice" comes nearly two years after the agency published a related proposal to restrict EPA's use of science.

The agency is currently giving the public only 30 days to weigh in on this new rushed proposal, even as communities across the country โ€“ including public health experts and scientists whose input on this proposal will be crucial โ€“ face severe and unprecedented hardship and demands in responding to the ongoing national health emergency. EPA has not given any justification for why this rushed timeframe may be warranted.Today's action fails to correct the fundamental threat to public health and the environment posed by the original proposal. As EDF has maintained since former Administrator Scott Pruitt issued the original proposal, EPA's Censored Science scheme must immediately be withdrawn altogether.

If the Trump EPA moves forward with this dangerous action, EDF urges that EPA provide at least 90 days for public comment following the end of this health crisis.

In opposition to today's action, EDF released the following statement:

"We are in an unprecedented national and global health crisis. From day one, Environmental Defense Fund has forcefully opposed the Trump administration's dangerous and unlawful attack on the health science that has ensured life-saving protections for all Americans. We reiterate our unwavering call for the Trump administration to stop its efforts to censor the health science that saves lives.

"This attack on health science is dangerous and unlawful at any time in American life and unconscionable as our nation faces an urgent and serious health crisis. To suggest that the public, and especially top public health experts, abruptly divert their attention in order to meet the agency's ill-timed and arbitrary comment deadline is unlawful and downright dangerous. Moving forward with an attack on life-saving health science without fair and meaningful public input is a serious threat to the American people, who need evidence-based decision making at EPA and across our government now more than ever."

ยท Vickie Patton, General Counsel, Environmental Defense Fund


EPA's original "Censored Science" proposal, released in April 2018 by former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, would effectively bar the agency from considering critical research when making decisions about protecting human health and the environment. A draft report by members of EPA's Science Advisory Board, released by the agency on New Year's Eve, warned that the original proposal "could easily undercut the integrity of environmental laws" and "is not consistent with sound scientific practice." Today's supplemental notice would apply these restrictions to an even wider array of scientific studies, further imperiling the government's ability to protect human health from environmental harms including climate change, air pollution, water pollution and other toxic chemical exposures.

Proposed under the misleading guise of transparency, the Censored Science rule would bar EPA from relying on peer-reviewed scientific studies when underlying data are not publicly available, notwithstanding the privacy imperatives that limit the disclosure of personal information and the fact that there are well-established protocols for testing and ensuring the replicability of study results. As with the original proposal, the supplemental notice ignores legitimate legal, ethical, and practical reasons such data may not be publicly available; ignores well-established, existing procedures for vetting scientific research; and fundamentally fails to identify a problem needing to be solved. The net effect is to put public health and our environment at risk.

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