Energy & Environment

EPA puts science ‘transparency’ rule on back burner

Greg Nash

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is putting its initiative to overhaul how it evaluates science on the back burner.

The agency has put the regulation, called Strengthening Transparency in Regulatory Science, on its “long-term actions” agenda in the latest edition of the Trump administration’s regulatory agenda, released Wednesday by the White House Office of Management and Budget.

The EPA now expects to make the rule final around January 2020, and dozens of other regulatory projects are in line in front of the science rule.

{mosads}Wednesday’s regulatory agenda also provided updated timelines for numerous major EPA initiatives, like repealing the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan and Clean Water Rule.

The highly controversial science rule would mandate that for regulations and other decisions, the EPA can only use scientific data and findings for which all of the underlying data can be made publicly available and reproducible.

Critics, including environmentalists, many scientists and Democrats, say it would set the bar unnecessarily high and prevent the EPA from using many high-quality studies, which would lead to fewer regulations.

An EPA spokesman said the rule is still under development, but the agency is taking its time sifting through the nearly 600,000 comments it received.

“This is not a delay. The agency is continuing its internal rulemaking development process for this action,” spokesman Michael Abboud said, noting that the prior regulatory agenda, published this past spring, did not have any timeline for a final version of the rule.


California Attorney General Xavier Becerra (D) nonetheless celebrated Wednesday’s move as a victory.

“We recently filed strong opposition to a proposed regulation by the EPA that would restrict EPA’s access to critical scientific data. EPA just shelved this misguided proposal. Now they should get back to their core mission of protecting human health and the environment,” he said in a statement.

The science rule was a top priority of former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, who resigned in July amid numerous spending and ethics scandals.

The Wednesday agenda updated timelines for dozens of other EPA regulatory rollbacks.

In March, the EPA plans to make final its proposed repeals of two major Obama administration rules: the Clean Power Plan, which sought to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from power plants, and the Clean Water Rule, which sought to extend federal water protections to many small waterways like ponds and streams.

The proposal to freeze auto emissions standards in 2020 and cancel future stricter rules is also due to be made final in March.

The industry-friendly Clean Power Plan replacement is due to be made final in March as well. A proposal to replace the Clean Water Rule with a less-ambitious version is due to be proposed this month and made final in September.

EPA plans to finalize its rollback of methane pollution rules for oil and natural gas drillers in April, it said. It hopes to propose rolling back more methane standards in December 2019.

At the Interior Department, the Trump administration plans to roll back parts of a major 2016 offshore drilling safety rule in December.

The Fish and Wildlife Service’s trio of rules to change how it implements the Endangered Species Act, proposed this summer, will be made final in November, the administration said.

Updated at 1:13 p.m.

Tags Environmental Protection Agency Scott Pruitt Xavier Becerra
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