Energy & Environment

Ex-EPA heads: Pruitt is crippling agency with ‘secret science’ rule

Two former heads of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have issued a scathing critique of its current administrator, Scott Pruitt, warning that his crackdown on certain scientific studies could have long-term damaging effects on the agency.

In a New York Times op-ed published Monday, former EPA administrators Gina McCarthy and Janet McCabe warned the public should “not to be fooled” by a recent announcement from Pruitt that he would rid the agency of “secret science,” a term used by some critics of the agency to describe studies that include nonpublic scientific data.

“Don’t be fooled by this talk of transparency. 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,” the two wrote.

“It is his latest effort to cripple the agency,” they added.

The article follows Pruitt’s announcement in a Daily Caller interview last week that the EPA was changing its policy on the data it used to determine regulations, deciding that going forward it would only utilize data made available for public scrutiny — reversing a long-standing policy at the EPA and the science community at large to use peer-reviewed data.

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

Pruitt has long argued that such practices, which he says lack transparency, are used routinely to justify unnecessary regulations.

“When we do contract that science out, sometimes the findings are published; we make that part of our rule-making processes, but then we don’t publish the methodology and data that went into those findings because the third party who did the study won’t give it to us,” Pruitt said.

McCarthy and McCabe noted how similar Pruitt’s new policy was to a bill introduced last year by Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), called the HONEST Act. The bill would “prohibit the Environmental Protection Agency from proposing, finalizing, or disseminating a covered action” unless all information was made publicly available for “independent analysis.”

The two former EPA chiefs said adopting the new policy would likely open up a can of worms, leading the public to unnecessarily doubt other regulations determined in other government agencies through peer-reviewed science.

“This approach would undermine the nation’s scientific credibility. And should Mr. Pruitt reconsider regulations now in place, this new policy could be a catalyst for the unraveling of existing public health protections if the studies used to justify them could no longer be used by EPA,” McCarthy and McCabe wrote.

Tags EPA Gina McCarthy Scott Pruitt

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