Coalition decries science plan as comment period nears end

Source: Sean Reilly, E&E News reporter • Posted: Thursday, August 16, 2018

A broad-based coalition of almost 80 advocacy organizations is asking acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler to withdraw a proposed rule that could significantly restrict the types of scientific studies the agency uses in crafting new regulations.

“The damage inflicted by this rule would have far-reaching consequences beyond undermining EPA’s scientific research processes,” the coalition said in a letter this afternoon.

Among the consequences: weakened public health and environmental safeguards and less protection for communities “that already bear the brunt of environmental contamination and associated health impacts,” the letter continued.

After noting that Wheeler told EPA staff last month that he would “seek the facts” before drawing conclusions, the letter ends by urging that he follow through on that pledge “by withdrawing this flawed proposal that would politicize science and prevent the agency from fulfilling its mission.”

Signers include the American Federation of Government Employees Local 704, which represents EPA workers in its Chicago-based Region 5; Moms Clean Air Force; and the Buffalo River Watershed Alliance. Leading the effort to put the letter together were the Union of Concerned Scientists and Earthjustice, a UCS representative said in an email.

It was dispatched to Wheeler one day before the deadline for written comments on the draft rule, officially titled “Strengthening Transparency in Regulatory Science.” Unveiled by then-EPA chief Scott Pruitt in late April, the proposal would generally limit EPA to using only studies for which the underlying research data “are publicly available in a manner sufficient for independent validation,” according to the text.

Pruitt had previously described the plan as geared toward bolstering public confidence in EPA’s decisionmaking; critics say the real purpose is to curtail the use of research that might justify the case for stricter pollution standards.

Wheeler, who took over as acting EPA chief early last month following Pruitt’s forced resignation, recently told E&E News that he would take “a hard look” at the proposal but added that he believed “the more information we put out to the public as far as what we’re basing our regulations on, the better our regulations will be” (E&E News PM, July 13).