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White House appears to conclude review of EPA 'secret science' rule

White House appears to conclude review of EPA 'secret science' rule
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The White House appears to have concluded its review of an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rule that’s expected to limit the types of scientific research the agency can consider in its rulemaking process. 

The website for the White House’s Office of Management and Budget lists the rule's review as concluded this week. 

The rule, which the agency has billed as a transparency measure, is expected to limit the EPA’s ability to consider studies that don’t make their underlying data public. 

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Critics argue that this could cause the agency to exclude important research like landmark public health studies that can’t release participants’ information. 

EPA spokesperson James Hewitt, however, declined to say whether the rule had been finalized and signed by Administrator Andrew WheelerAndrew WheelerOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Haaland reportedly recommends full restoration of monuments Trump altered | EPA to reinstate air pollution panel disbanded under Trump | State appeals court upholds approval of Minnesota pipeline EPA to reinstate air pollution panel disbanded under Trump Overnight Energy: EPA to reconsider Trump decision not to tighten soot standards | Interior proposes withdrawal of Trump rule that would allow drillers to pay less | EPA reverses Trump guidance it said weakened 'forever chemicals' regulations MORE, saying “we have nothing to announce at this time” in an email to The Hill. 

“The American public deserve transparency and access to data that determine regulatory decisions and in a way that protects the privacy of individuals and other confidential information,” Hewitt added. 

He also declined to say whether there were significant changes to the rule, which has been nicknamed the “secret science” rule, since a new version of it was proposed in March

Sen. Tom CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperSenate confirms Radhika Fox to lead EPA's water office Rick Scott threatens to delay national security nominees until Biden visits border Senate panel unanimously advances key Biden cyber nominees MORE (Del.), the top Democrat on the Senate’s Environment and Public Works Committee, criticized the rule in a statement on Thursday. 

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“It’s just one last gasp of science denial,” Carper said. “Amid an ongoing public health crisis — a time when accessing the latest scientific research and embracing scientific advancements is a critical function of protecting human health — the Trump EPA is trying to limit the use of scientific data.”

The rule also received pushback from the EPA’s own Science Advisory Board (SAB) earlier this year. The board wrote that it had “concerns about the scientific and technical challenges of implementing” a rule the EPA has not proved is necessary.

“There is minimal justification provided in the proposed rule for why existing procedures and norms utilized across the U.S. scientific community, including the federal government, are inadequate, and how the proposed rule will improve transparency and the scientific integrity of the regulatory outcomes in an effective and efficient manner,” the SAB wrote in a report. 

“It is plausible that in some situations, the proposed rule will decrease efficiency and reduce scientific integrity,” it added.

The March proposal was an altered version of the rule, which was first pushed under then-EPA Administrator Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittOklahoma AG resigns following news of divorce, alleged affair Court sets in motion EPA ban on pesticide linked to developmental issues Scientific integrity, or more hot air? MORE. The updated version expanded the scope of the rule to include agency activities beyond just rulemaking. 

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In the newer version, the agency also wouldn't entirely exclude studies that don’t publicize their data, but would give preference to studies that do make their data publicly available.

The rule is one of several being pushed through by the Trump administration during its final days.

It has recently finalized an airline emissions regulation, reviews of air quality standards and changes to a lead contamination rule.