(Washington, D.C. – March 4, 2020) Yesterday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed to expand the scope of its already dangerous plan to limit the science the agency can consider when developing critical public health and environmental safeguards.
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 around protecting human health and the environment. The newly-released supplemental proposal would apply these restrictions to an even wider array of scientific studies, further imperiling EPA’s ability to protect our health and ecosystems from environmental harms including climate change, air pollution, water pollution and other toxic chemical exposures.
“This new version does nothing to fix the fundamental problems with the original Scott Pruitt proposal,” said EDF Senior Health Scientist Dr. Jennifer McPartland. “In fact, it’s an even more expansive attack on science that endangers the health and well-being of American families.”
“This unlawful proposal would bar EPA from considering the best available science when making decisions about our health and environment, and ignores a chorus of opposition from our nation’s leading researchers and scientific institutions,” said EDF Attorney Ben Levitan. “We will do everything in our power to defeat this latest effort by the Trump Administration to undermine health and environmental protections.”
Proposed under the guise of transparency, the Censored Science rule would bar EPA from using critical scientific studies when underlying data are not publicly available. As with the original proposal, the supplemental proposal 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 American health and our environment at risk.
Environmental Defense Fund previously submitted comments on the original proposal, pointing to the numerous ways in which the proposal departs from acceptable scientific practice; would degrade the quality of scientific decision-making at EPA; and violates EPA’s obligations under the Clean Air Act, Toxic Substances Control Act, and other federal laws to consider the best available science.
EPA developed the original proposal without consulting with its own Scientific Advisory Board. A draft report by members of the Science Advisory Board, released by EPA 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.” Just this week, Sen. Tom Carper sent a letter to EPA’s Inspector General asking for an investigation of key procedural defects in the development of the 2018 proposal, including the agency’s failure to make crucial information about the rule available to the public, consult with its Science Advisory Board prior to releasing the original proposal, and undertake proper interagency review.
The original proposal has also been widely criticized by prominent scientific organizations, academic institutions, and public health and environmental organizations. Editors of the nation’s leading scientific journals, the Presidents of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, nearly one hundred leading Harvard scientists and medical experts, and other scientific experts have previously voiced significant concerns about the proposal—in many instances recommending that EPA withdraw it entirely—which is premised on failed anti-science legislation that has been stalled in Congress for years. The supplemental proposal in no way addresses these concerns.
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