EPA Backs Off Plan for Science Transparency Rules

Published November 22, 2019

The U.S Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) withdrew a regulatory reform it proposed in April 2018 to limit the agency’s ability to craft major new regulations with studies for which the underlying data is not available for “independent validation,” EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler announced at a September congressional hearing.

The so-called “secret science” reform was proposed by Scott Pruitt, Wheeler’s predecessor at EPA.

“The era of secret science at EPA is coming to an end,” Pruitt said when announcing the rule. “The ability to test, authenticate, and reproduce scientific findings is vital for the integrity of the rule-making process. Americans deserve to assess the legitimacy of the science underpinning EPA decisions that may impact their lives.”

When announcing the rule rescission, Wheeler said EPA will issue a supplemental proposal early next year for future rulemaking.

Still Secret

The science EPA used to develop many of its most costly air quality regulations could not be verified because its data was kept secret, despite being funded by taxpayers, says Steve Milloy, founder of JunkScience.com and a policy advisor to The Heartland Institute, which publishes Environment & Climate News.

“The underlying data from the scientific studies of air quality has been kept secret for 25 years, not only by EPA, but by researchers EPA paid to produce them, so it amounts to taxpayer-funded studies using secret data,” Milloy said. “Scott Pruitt proposed this rule in 2018 to keep the EPA from regulating based on secret science, and of course during the comment period opponents of the Trump EPA went nuts, making all sorts of false claims about the rule.

“This is very disappointing,” Milloy said. “The idea that next year EPA will issue a supplementary rule is simply dodging the issue for now, the coward’s way out, since Wheeler knows what the problem is and he knows how it needs to be fixed but he didn’t want to do it.”

‘Implementing the Obama Agenda’

EPA’s action is another example of the “deep state” working to undermine reasonable regulatory reforms, Milloy says.

“There is a huge disconnect between what the president wants and what is being implemented at EPA,” Milloy said. “The government is full of swampy people, making it quite challenging to make substantial reforms at EPA, which has at most a handful of Trump people in an agency of 13,000 people, many likely in the ‘Resistance.’

“So even if Andrew Wheeler was super-aggressive and wanting to get stuff done, it would still be quite a challenge,” Milloy said. “However, my contention is he is not being super-aggressive to get this done. This is important stuff, and he knows it’s important stuff, but for whatever reason he’s dragging his feet on it. At this point, Wheeler is just implementing the Obama agenda.”

Kenneth Artz ([email protected]) writes from Dallas, Texas.