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EPA moving ahead with science transparency rule by 'early next year'

EPA moving ahead with science transparency rule by 'early next year'

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) head Andrew WheelerAndrew WheelerOVERNIGHT ENERGY: EPA eases permitting for modifications to polluting facilities | Rocky Mountain National Park closed due to expanding Colorado wildfire | Trump order strips workplace protections from civil servants EPA eases permitting for modifications to polluting facilities OVERNIGHT ENERGY: EPA may violate courts with new rule extending life of unlined coal ash ponds | Trump reverses course, approving assistance for California wildfires | Climate change, national security among topics for final Trump-Biden debate MORE said Thursday his agency will move forward with its proposed science transparency rule by "early next year."

Testifying before the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, Wheeler said the decision to move forward with the controversial open-science rule reflects a commitment to “the highest-quality science.”

“Good science is science that can be replicated and independently validated; science that holds up to scrutiny. That is why we are moving forward to ensure that the science supporting agency decisions is transparent and available for evaluation by the public and stakeholders,” he said in his opening statement.

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The Strengthening Transparency in Regulatory Science draft rule was first proposed in April 2018 under former EPA Administrator Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittOVERNIGHT ENERGY: EPA eases permitting for modifications to polluting facilities | Rocky Mountain National Park closed due to expanding Colorado wildfire | Trump order strips workplace protections from civil servants EPA eases permitting for modifications to polluting facilities Overnight Energy: Barrett punts on climate, oil industry recusals | Ex-EPA official claims retaliation in lawsuit | Dems seek to uphold ruling ousting Pendley MORE.

The highly controversial 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 have argued the move would limit the available science that can be considered for agency rulemaking due to privacy obligations often tied to health studies.

Last fall, action on the rule was put on hold when it was placed on the Trump administration’s “long-term actions” agenda.

The agency at the time said it expected the rule would be made final around January 2020.

"This is not a delay. The agency is continuing its internal rulemaking development process for this action," EPA spokesman Michael Abboud said at the time. 

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The transparency rule was a key priority for Pruitt before he resigned from the agency in July of last year under a slew of ethics and spending scandals. But Wheeler has always made it clear that he isn’t letting it fall by the wayside.

In an exclusive interview with The Hill last December, Wheeler said, “I’ve worked on those issues for over 20 years. So I feel very strongly about science transparency.”

Wheeler previously served as a career EPA employee, a GOP Senate aide and an energy industry lobbyist.

“I cut my teeth on the Right to Know Act — I believe that if we put the science out for everyone to see and understand then there will be acceptance of our regulatory decisions,” Wheeler told the committee.