Pruitt signs proposed rule to erase 'secret science' from EPA

Pruitt signs proposed rule to erase 'secret science' from EPA
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Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittOvernight Energy: EPA halts surprise inspections of power, chemical plants | Regulators decline to ban pesticide linked to brain damage | NY awards country's largest offshore wind energy contracts EPA allows continued use of pesticide linked with brain damage Overnight Energy: Trump officials gut DC staff for public lands agency to move West | Democrats slam EPA over scientific boards | Deepwater Horizon most litigated environmental issue of decade MORE signed a rule proposal Tuesday aimed at increasing "transparency" in science all while limiting reporter, environmentalist and scientist access to the event.

The proposal, signed at EPA headquarters, aims to expose the methodology behind scientific findings and cut back on what Pruitt has deemed "secret science."

Speaking in front of a number of well-known climate change skeptics including the Competitive Enterprise Institute's Myron Ebell, Pruitt announced that the new rule would require science to "be transparent, reproducible and able to be analyzed by those in the marketplace." Reporters were not invited to attend the event, and details surrounding the announcement and rule proposal were kept secret until 30 minutes before the EPA's Twitter account announced it would be live-streamed.

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Pruitt said the new ruling shows "an agency taking responsibility for how we do our work, in respecting process … so that we can enhance confidence in our decision making." He also dubbed the current process which had, until now, allowed science to be peer reviewed rather than open to public scrutiny, "simply wrong headed."

The rule will replicate, through agency action, two bills previously introduced in the House and Senate meant to restrict the kind of science the EPA can use when writing regulations.

The House bill authored by Rep. Lamar SmithLamar Seeligson SmithDemocratic staffer says Wendy Davis will run for Congress Ex-GOP Rep. Roskam joins lobbying firm Anti-corruption group hits Congress for ignoring K Street, Capitol Hill 'revolving door' MORE (R-Texas), now called the Honest and Open New EPA Science Treatment Act, would mandate all scientific data and findings be made publicly available before they are used to justify agency regulations. Versions of Smith’s bill passed the GOP-controlled House three times, but the Senate hasn’t taken it up.

Last week, internal documents released by a Freedom of Information Act request by the Union of Concerned Scientists found that EPA political staffers have been working for months in conjunction with Smith and his staff to mimic the bill.

Speaking at the event Tuesday, Smith thanked Pruitt for being a "courageous leader" of the agency and blamed the "liberal media and alarmist environmental groups," for finding negatives in his legislation.

"For too long, EPA has withheld data that has been hidden from the American people," Smith said.

Opponents of the new rule say it would limit the number of available scientific studies that could be used by the agency in its rulemaking, namely by excluding a number of public health studies.

Timed with Pruitt's announcement, seven Democratic Lawmakers sent a letter to Pruitt on Tuesday denouncing the new policy. The letter, led by Sen. Tom CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperFighting the opioid epidemic: Congress can't just pass laws, but must also push to enforce them Overnight Energy: Scientists flee USDA as research agencies move to Kansas City area | Watchdog finds EPA skirted rules to put industry reps on boards | New rule to limit ability to appeal pollution permits Watchdog finds EPA skirted rules when appointing industry leaders to science boards MORE (D-Del.), tells Pruitt, "Your proposed new policy likely violates several laws with which EPA must comply as the agency writes rules to protect our air, water and land from harmful pollution.”

The lawmakers said Pruitt's new policy likely would run afoul of a number of laws that mandate rulemaking be based on the "best available science … because it would require EPA to ignore some of the ‘best’ scientific studies."

"Courts have explained that ‘best available science’ means that agencies ‘should seek out and consider all existing scientific evidence relevant to the decision’ and ‘cannot ignore existing data,' " the letter read.

This story is being updated