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 PruittGovernment watchdog probing EPA’s handling of Hurricane Harvey response Wheeler won’t stop America’s addiction to fossil fuels Overnight Energy: Trump rolls back methane pollution rule | EPA watchdog to step down | China puts tariffs on US gas 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 SmithOvernight Energy: Watchdog to investigate EPA over Hurricane Harvey | Panel asks GAO to expand probe into sexual harassment in science | States sue over methane rules rollback Report on new threats targeting our elections should serve as a wake-up call to public, policymakers Overnight Energy: Watchdog faults EPA over Pruitt security costs | Court walks back order on enforcing chemical plant rule | IG office to probe truck pollution study 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 CarperOvernight Health Care: Senators target surprise medical bills | Group looks to allow Medicaid funds for substance abuse programs | FDA launches anti-vaping campaign for teens Bipartisan senators unveil proposal to crack down on surprise medical bills Super PACs spend big in high-stakes midterms 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