Democrat calls on EPA to withdraw 'secret science' rule

Democrat calls on EPA to withdraw 'secret science' rule
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Sen. Tom CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperDemocrat asks for probe of EPA's use of politically appointed lawyers Overnight Energy: Study links coronavirus mortality to air pollution exposure | Low-income, minority households pay more for utilities: report OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Democrats push resolution to battle climate change, sluggish economy and racial injustice | Senators reach compromise on greenhouse gas amendment stalling energy bill | Trump courts Florida voters with offshore drilling moratorium MORE (D-Del.) is urging the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to withdraw a proposed rule that he believes could curtail its response to crises such as the coronavirus pandemic. 

Carper, the top Democrat on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, said that the EPA should withdraw its “Strengthening Transparency in Regulatory Science” rule, which seeks to limit the use of scientific studies that don’t make their underlying data public.

Opponents of the proposal, sometimes referred to as the  “Secret Science” rule, argue that it could limit the use of science in the agency’s rule-making. The administration and rule supporters have argued that it is necessary for transparency. 

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“It is ... possible that studies that could be usefully relied upon during a pandemic or other crisis would be systematically excluded from being used in EPA’s scientific and regulatory efforts well before the next pandemic or other crisis [that] occurs if this rule is finalized,” Carper wrote in a Tuesday letter to EPA Administrator Andrew WheelerAndrew WheelerOVERNIGHT ENERGY: EPA head questions connection of climate change to natural disasters | Pebble Mine executives eye future expansion in recorded conversations | EPA questions science linking widely used pesticide to brain damage in children EPA head questions connection of climate change to natural disasters OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Wheeler seeks to paint EPA regulatory rollbacks as environmentally friendly | Former EPA chiefs endorse Biden, criticize agency under Trump | White House opposes House energy bill as Democrats promise climate action MORE.

“For example, since the proposed rule would systematically exclude studies that do not meet EPA’s criteria for independent validation, critical studies that would otherwise inform influential scientific information will not be used or incorporated into key documents,” he added. 

The EPA defended the rule in a statement to The Hill, saying that it “enables independent validation of scientific conclusions is important to advancing the Agency’s mission.”

“It acknowledges that all science is welcome at the Agency and provides a clear awareness to researchers and the general public that, if the proposed Science Transparency rule is finalized, the Agency will utilize procedures with the goal of making the science on which future significant regulatory decisions are based more transparent,” the statement said. 

It added that statutes allowing the EPA to issue emergency orders or respond to emergencies would mean that the rule will not impede its ability to respond to crises.

Meanwhile, some have called on the EPA to give the public more time to comment on the rule, given that many are currently focused on the virus outbreak. 

However, the agency said that it will continue its regulatory work “business as usual” and that “as regulations.gov is fully functioning, there is no barrier to the public providing comment during the established periods.”