EPA and Science
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Law and Politics

EPA and Science

Pruitt limits available research

WHAT IT IS

  • April 24, 2018: Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed using only publicly available scientific studies to help develop policies and regulations. [EPA]

  • The Administrator of EPA, Scott Pruitt, stated that the new policy would strengthen the agency by making it fully transparent to the public. [The New York Times]

  • This "transparency rule" would limit the EPA from using research that contains information protected under privacy laws. [The Washington Post]

Scott PruittGetty Images

EPA Administrator, Scott Pruitt

"The science that we use is going to be transparent. 

It's going to be reproducible." [Reuters]

-Scott Pruitt, head of EPA

WHY IT MATTERS

 

Many scientists and public health groups worry that limiting access to research will narrow the EPA's knowledge and negatively impact the agency's ability to make informed decisions. 

 

Research studies often include confidential personal or medical information that cannot be publicly published. Examples of research studies with private data that helped created landmark regulations include: [Harvard], [EPA, Laws], [The Denver Post], [EPA, Regulations], [EPA, Particule Pollution].

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INCLUDE THE RULE

Reviewable data

All decisions would be based on science that is "independently verified" and available to the public to read and review. [The New York Times]

 

 

More public awareness

As Pruitt stated, this could strengthen the transparency of the EPA regulatory science since anyone in the public would be able to read the research behind the policy. [PBS]

 

 

Present demand

A group of policymakers, led by Lamar Smith (R-Texas), have tried to pass a similar law but were unsuccessful on several occasions. [The Denver Post]

DITCH THE RULE

Less information

The new rule would drastically limit the number of studies available to use to inform decisions. When considering policy or law, the EPA would be unable to review research that contains sensitive or confidential information. Less information could lead to poor decision making. [The New York Times]
 

 

Less regulation

A potential outcome could be less EPA regulations on carbon emissions, air pollution, and pesticides. Current regulations are based on research containing private information. [PBS]

 

 

Fewer participants

People may be less inclined to participate in government studies since participants would have to agree to allow their personal information to be publicly published. [The Denver Post]

WHERE WE ARE NOW

  • A 30-day window (recently extended) for public comment is required. The agency will take public feedback into consideration before implementing or discarding the rule. [EPA News]

  • Public health and environmental groups are legally challenging the rule.

  • July, 2018: Scott Pruitt resigned as EPA Administrator. [The Los Angeles Times]

THINGS TO THINK ABOUT

  • Is there another way to increase transparency without limiting research?

  • Will previous regulations be affected by the rule?

  • Will states individually implement rules based on private data?

 

Learn more about Scott Pruitt's decisions while Administrator of the EPA.

 

Key Vocabulary