EPA looks to other statutes to expand scope of coming 'secret science' rule

EPA looks to other statutes to expand scope of coming 'secret science' rule
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The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will work to expand the scope of its coming regulation that will limit what types of scientific research the agency can consider by applying it to several more individual statutes.

Speaking at a Heritage Foundation event, EPA Administrator Andrew WheelerAndrew WheelerOvernight Energy & Environment — American Clean Power — Supreme Court to review power plant rule case EPA to consider tighter air quality standards for smog Overnight Energy & Environment — Presented by Climate Power — Emissions heading toward pre-pandemic levels MORE said the agency would apply the rule to the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act and other major environmental protection statutes through a series of implementing regulations the agency will issue through 2023.

Wheeler described the rule as a way to “make available to the public the science that we use that forms the basis for our regulations.”


“We'll finalize our science transparency regulation before the end of this year, and then ... we will go through each of our major statutes for science transparency and we'll complete that process," he added. 

The scope of regulation Wheeler seeks to expand limits the agency’s ability to consider scientific studies that don’t make their underlying data public — something critics say will limit consideration of landmark public health research that cannot release peoples’ personal health information.

The agency has dubbed the proposal a transparency measure, first pushed under former EPA Administrator Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittUnderstanding the barriers between scientists, the public and the truth Overnight Energy & Environment — Biden makes return to pre-Trump national monument boundaries official Trump-era EPA board member sues over firing MORE, who said limiting the types of studies weighed by the agency would battle “secret science.”

The proposal was reissued in March after widespread criticism, but the latest version is also facing pushback from the scientific community.

The EPA’s independent Science Advisory Board, which reviews the scientific underpinning of EPA regulations, wrote in a review released Tuesday that it had “concerns about the scientific and technical challenges of implementing” the rule.

EPA has been criticized for failing to find ways to use studies that need to keep personal and business data confidential. But various science advocacy groups have argued the overall policy is flawed as researchers look at methods and conclusions — not raw data — when evaluating scientific studies.

Wheeler’s direction to extend the so-called Strengthening Transparency in Regulatory Science rule statute by statute follows the agency’s playbook for changing how it analyzes the costs and benefits of each rule.

Critics say the first iteration for the Clean Air Act would hamstring future administrations from implementing air pollution regulations. 

Andrew Rosenberg with the Union for Concerned Scientists, which has opposed the science transparency proposal, said the agency is “playing a legal strategy game,” by working to imbed it in a number of statutes.

“The problem is they are still applying non scientific criteria to deciding what the best available science is and that's never going to work no matter how many ways you slice it. It just doesn't make sense,” he said.

“This will undermine the ability of EPA and other agencies to protect public health for years until it can all be undone so I hope the court does not let them do this sleight of hand,” he added.