Pruitt advisers pan science ‘transparency’ proposal

Pruitt advisers pan science ‘transparency’ proposal
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A team of external scientific advisers to 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 is criticizing his proposal to restrict the scientific findings that the agency can use in writing and enforcing regulations.

The critique, posted Tuesday to the EPA’s website, comes from a working group of the Science Advisory Board, a panel of experts — some of whom Pruitt hand-picked — charged with evaluating the EPA’s science and regulatory actions.

Pruitt rolled out the controversial proposal last month in what he said was an effort to improve transparency at the agency and increase scrutiny. In general, studies used by the EPA would have to fully disclose their data and methodology.

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“The American people ought to be able to have confidence, assurance, that the findings, the record that we build ... can be assessed, it can be evaluated, it can be analyzed,” Pruitt said.

Critics say it the proposal is merely an attempt to make it harder for the EPA to be aggressive in its regulatory, enforcement and other actions.

In their memo dated last week, the 10 advisers to Pruitt said the proposal doesn’t adequately explain why it's necessary. They also warned that it would remove valuable scientific studies from the EPA’s consideration, among other issues.

“Although the proposed rule cites several valuable publications that support enhanced transparency, the precise design of the rule appears to have been developed without a public process for soliciting input from the scientific community,” the advisers wrote.

“Nor does the preamble to the rule describe precisely how the proposal builds on previous efforts to promote transparency such as the Information Quality Act and EPA’s Information Quality Guidelines.”

The group also took issue with the EPA’s decision not to evaluate the impact of the proposal on regulatory programs.

“Without access to the restricted data, regulatory programs could become more or less stringent than they otherwise would be, with consequences for both regulatory costs and benefits,” they said.

The advisers said the proposal could put epidemiological studies off the table for EPA and oversimplifies objections based on personal privacy of study subjects.

The group additionally said the EPA did not give them adequate notice that the proposal was coming.

An EPA spokeswoman said the agency will consider the input.

“We value the Board’s expertise, and we welcome feedback from the chartered panel on areas in which they are interested in getting additional scientific information that is relevant to the rulemaking process,” the spokeswoman said.