News Feature | March 29, 2018

Scientific Community Decries EPA Push To Restrict Research

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome,

The U.S. EPA under Trump administration is considering a major overhaul of how it assesses scientific research, a move that critics say could render the agency more toothless in protecting the drinking water supply.

“Under the proposed policy, the agency would no longer consider scientific research unless the underlying raw data can be made public for other scientists and industry groups to examine. As a result, regulators crafting future rules would quite likely find themselves restricted from using some of the most consequential environmental research of recent decades, such as studies linking air pollution to premature deaths or work that measures human exposure to pesticides and other chemicals,” The New York Times reported.

That’s because a significant amount of research includes private data of individuals, which must be kept confidential.

“We need to make sure their data and methodology are published as part of the record,” EPA Administrator Pruitt told The Daily Caller. “Otherwise, it’s not transparent. It’s not objectively measured, and that’s important.”

Critics say the policy change would restrict the type of information that could be cited by the agency, according to ABC News. EPA defenders say the agency is simply looking to make agency work more transparent.

"Administrator Pruitt believes that Americans deserve transparency, with regard to the science and data that’s underpinning regulatory decisions being made by this Agency," EPA spokeswoman Liz Bowman said, per ABC News.

E&E News first reported the development after Pruitt discussed the proposal in a closed-door meeting at the conservative think tank Heritage Foundation last week. The report noted that House Science Committee Chairman Lamar Smith, R-Texas, has been advocating for such a policy change for years, claiming that EPA proposals are often backed by “secret science,” a notion that mainstream scientists dispute.

Various critics have spoken out against the EPA policy change. Andrew Rosenberg, director of the Center for Science and Democracy at Union of Concerned Scientists, said changing the way the EPA uses research could pose a threat to clean water.

“This could mean that there’s no independent voice ensuring that EPA follows the science on everything from drinking water pollution to atmospheric chemical exposure. Independent science is absolutely critical to making good policies that keep our air and water clean and our communities safe. But this administration — particularly Administrator Pruitt — seems to have taken every opportunity to cut science out,” Rosenberg said in a statement.