The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) plan to end the use of “secret science” to craft regulations will take the form of proposed regulation, making it harder for officials to skirt around or future administrations to repeal, The Daily Caller News Foundation has learned.
Administrator Scott Pruitt first announced his ban on “secret science” in a March interview with TheDCNF. Pruitt will unveil the new policy on Tuesday in the form of a proposed rule, which, if finalized, will make it harder for future administrations to repeal.
“We need to make sure their data and methodology are published as part of the record,” Pruitt told TheDCNF in March. “Otherwise, it’s not transparent. It’s not objectively measured, and that’s important.”
Pruitt is scheduled to announce the data transparency proposal Tuesday afternoon, in the first time releasing specifics of the new policy. A proposed rule must go through a comment period before it can be finalized.
Republicans have pushed for transparency in EPA regulatory science for years, especially in the wake of the Obama administration relying on non-public data to justify billions of dollars in health benefits from reducing certain pollutants.
Pruitt’s proposed rule would apply prospectively to future regulatory actions, TheDCNF has learned, but EPA officials could link the data transparency rule with President Donald Trump’s executive order on regulations issued in 2017.
Trump ordered the creation of task forces to identify existing regulations ripe for repeal or reform. That order would nicely dovetail with a finalized EPA data transparency rule.
Once finalized, regulations put under review will have the transparency standard applied. That means EPA officials will take a close look at studies and regulatory assessments underlying existing rules, especially those imposed in the Obama years.
The proposal will be similar to Texas Rep. Lamar Smith’s HONEST Act, which passed the House in March 2017. That bill required EPA to only use publicly available data when considering rule making.
Democrats and environmentalists opposed Pruitt’s data transparency plan. Opponents argue the policy would restrict the amount of studies EPA can rely on to craft regulations and could expose legally protected patient health data.
“He and some conservative members of Congress are setting up a nonexistent problem in order to prevent the EPA from using the best available science,” former Obama EPA administrators Gina McCarthy and Janet McCabe wrote in a New York Times op-ed.
“It is his latest effort to cripple the agency,” they argued. Reported benefits from EPA rules are “mostly attributable to the reduction in public exposure to fine particulate matter,” according to the White House Office of Management and Budget report. That’s equivalent to billions of dollars.
Those estimated benefits rely on two studies to regulate on fine particulate matter, or PM2.5, in the 1990s. The studies — by Harvard University and the American Cancer Society — have not publicly released their underlying data. The Obama EPA argued requiring the data be made public would violate the confidentiality of individuals that participated in those studies.
However, EPA’s proposed data transparency rule will provide for privacy concerns and for concerns from industry over releasing confidential business information. Many scientific journals already require data to be made public, meaning researchers have ways of protecting confidential information.
“This sort of data is already routinely made public for research use,” JunkScience.com publisher Steve Milloy wrote in a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed.
“In 2012 I was desperate for a way around the Obama EPA’s secrecy on the PM2.5 issue, I found out in 2012 that I could get California death-certificate data in electronic form,” wrote Milloy. “The state’s Health Department calls this sort of data ‘Death Public Use Files.’ They are scrubbed of all personal identifying and private medical information. Some of my colleagues used this data to prepare a 2017 study, which found PM2.5 was not associated with death.”
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