EPA’s Censored Science Proposal “Irretrievably Unlawful” and an “Attack on Public Health – EDF

May 19, 2020
Sharyn Stein, 202-905-5718, sstein@edf.org

(Washington, D.C. – May 19, 2020) EPA’s latest effort to censor science is an “irretrievably unlawful and misguided attack on public health” and the agency should abandon it, according to comments filed by Environmental Defense Fund.

Yesterday was the last day for the public to comment on EPA’s expanded proposal to restrict the science the agency can consider when making decisions about vital public health and environmental safeguards. EDF’s comments provide detailed criticism of the proposal itself and EPA’s failure to provide an adequate opportunity for comment.

“Cynically presented under the guise of promoting ‘transparency’ in EPA’s use of science, the Supplemental Notice would in fact censor science at EPA,” EDF states in its comments. “Like its predecessor proposal, the Supplemental Notice lacks any legal or factual basis; would undermine the scientific integrity of the agency’s decisions; and would do deep damage to public health by blinding the agency to life-saving research and hobbling the agency’s ability to carry out our nation’s bedrock health and environmental laws.”

EDF’s comments call on EPA to “immediately withdraw this harmful, misguided, and fatally deficient proposal.”

EPA’s original “censored science proposal” was released two years ago by then-administrator Scott Pruitt. It would bar EPA from using certain scientific studies that examine relationships between hazardous exposures and health effects in its work unless the data underlying those studies – including confidential medical information – are publicly available.

The new expanded proposal makes that already dangerous idea much worse by widening its scope to all data and models used by the agency, and to a vast universe of influential scientific information produced by EPA. Thousands of widely accepted studies that support limits on toxic chemicals, air pollution and water pollution could be thrown out, undermining EPA’s duty to protect American families from those health hazards. The expanded proposal also explicitly states that “personnel and medical information … the disclosure of which would clearly constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy … are intended to be subject to this rulemaking.”

EDF’s comments also underscore that EPA has no statutory authority to issue the proposed rule and has failed to provide an adequate opportunity for public input, particularly from public health experts and scientists who are focused on fighting the pandemic caused by the new coronavirus.

“EPA has pointed to no health or environmental benefit that would justify moving forward with this rulemaking: to the contrary, this proposal would harm the public by undermining vital health and environmental protections,” EDF states in its comments. “EPA’s rushed comment process — and its rejection of a legally-required opportunity for hearing — violates the agency’s statutory duty to provide the public with a meaningful opportunity to weigh in.”

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