EPA board to scrutinize Pruitt’s science ‘transparency’ rule

EPA board to scrutinize Pruitt’s science ‘transparency’ rule
© Greg Nash

The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) external scientific advisers have decided to formally scrutinize Administrator Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittTrump directs agencies to cut advisory boards by 'at least' one-third Trump directs agencies to cut advisory boards by 'at least' one-third Overnight Energy: Former EPA chiefs say Trump has abandoned agency's mission | Trump in Iowa touts ethanol and knocks Biden | Greens sue Trump over drilling safety rollbacks | FDA downplays worries over 'forever chemicals' MORE’s proposal to require new transparency measures for science the agency uses.

The EPA’s Science Advisory Board voted unanimously to take on the regulation at a Thursday meeting. It also decided to examine five other controversial regulatory rollbacks Pruitt is working on.

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“There is a real lack of clarity in how you would unroll this and actually apply it,” Allison Cullen, a public policy professor at the University of Washington and a member of the board, said at the meeting.

“We’re being advised of all of these benefits and no costs, and we’re sitting here with a long list of costs to science and to the agency and to regulatory costs with the promulgation of this rule, without any of the details,” said Kenneth Portier, an independent consultant and board member.

Under the new rule, any scientific data or findings the EPA uses for regulation, enforcement or other decisions would be subject to strict new standards. It would have to have all data publicly available, and it would have to be reproducible.

Supporters say it would subject science to more scrutiny and let outsiders challenge the EPA’s findings.

Opponents say it would severely restrict the science EPA uses, particularly epidemiological studies, which rely on personal health data that is usually confidential.

Some board members said they support the rule, though they still supported doing a scientific review.

“This is a sticky issue. It’s been well-discussed in the literature, and there are examples where, I would say, mischief has been done,” said Stanley Young, a statistician and policy adviser at the conservative Heartland Institute.

A small task force of the board had previously criticized the rule and said Pruitt kept them in the dark about major parts of it.

Thursday's meeting was the first for the board since Pruitt put new restrictions on board members, barring advisers who also get EPA grants.

At the meeting, the board also decided to scrutinize five other Pruitt proposals: Repealing the Clean Power Plan; repealing carbon dioxide limits for newly built power plants; repealing methane pollution standards for oil and natural gas drilling; the determination that greenhouse gas emissions rules for cars should be rolled back and repealing new emissions rules for new trucks that use old engines, known as “glider” trucks.