Energy & Environment

EPA officially nixes Trump ‘secret science’ rule

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has finalized a rule to undo the Trump administration’s “secret science” regulation, which restricted the agency’s ability to consider certain studies.

The agency’s action formally implements a court decision from February that threw out the rule on the grounds that a prior ruling had eliminated its legal basis.

“This action ensures that EPA can utilize the best available science and data to support our work to protect the public from pollution,” EPA Administrator Michael Regan said in a statement Wednesday.

“The Biden-Harris Administration has an unwavering commitment to scientific integrity, and to listening to experts and scientists so we can move forward with urgency to deliver on EPA’s mission,” he added. 

The Trump-era rule limited the agency’s use of studies that don’t make their underlying data publicly available.

The Trump administration billed it as a transparency measure, but critics argued that it would undermine the use of important public health studies that keep their data private for reasons like privacy.

The Trump rule didn’t eliminate the use of all studies with private data but gave preference to those with public data.

The new rule implementing the court decision will become effective once it is published in the Federal Register.

The “secret science” rule was vacated through a pair of court rulings earlier this year.

In a January ruling, federal judge Brian Morris ruled against the EPA’s classification of the rule as procedural, rather than substantive, which allowed it to become effective immediately rather than having to wait 30 days under the agency’s “housekeeping authority.”

In the subsequent decision, the judge said he would have to vacate the rule in light of his prior decision because the housekeeping authority was the legal justification underpinning the rule, so without it, there was not a legal basis for the regulation. 

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