OVERNIGHT ENERGY: EPA's independent science board says 'secret science' proposal may 'reduce scientific integrity' | Court blocks funding to corporations vying for tribal stimulus | House probe: Energy regulators almost always side with gas pipelines

OVERNIGHT ENERGY: EPA's independent science board says 'secret science' proposal may 'reduce scientific integrity' | Court blocks funding to corporations vying for tribal stimulus | House probe: Energy regulators almost always side with gas pipelines
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‘MINIMAL JUSTIFICATION’: The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) independent board of science advisors had harsh words for an agency plan to limit the type of studies it considers when crafting regulations, saying the EPA had failed to justify the need for the policy.

The policy was first proposed by former EPA Administrator Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittEPA looks to other statutes to expand scope of coming 'secret science' rule EPA ordered to reconsider New York efforts to tame downwind pollution OVERNIGHT ENERGY: EPA declines to tighten smog standards amid pressure from green groups | Democrats split on Trump plan to use development funds for nuclear projects| Russian mining giant reports another fuel spill in Arctic MORE in 2018 to battle “secret science.” He argued in order to increase transparency, the agency should limit consideration of studies that don’t share their underlying data.

But the agency’s own Science Advisory Board (SAB), in a review of the proposal released Tuesday, said it has “concerns about the scientific and technical challenges of implementing” a rule the EPA has not proven 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 its report.

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

The Trump administration has appointed a significant portion of those on the SAB, which traditionally has included around 40 of the nation’s top scientists. Over the past several months the board has issued a number of reviews critical of EPA policy.

“The American public has the right to know what scientific studies underline the agency’s regulatory decisions,” EPA Administrator Andrew WheelerAndrew WheelerOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Trump order aims to curb US agencies' use of foreign workers after TVA outrage | EPA transition back to the office alarms employees | Hundreds of green groups oppose BLM nominee EPA transition back to the office alarms employees OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Latest Trump proposal on endangered species could limit future habitat, critics say | House-passed spending bill would block Pebble Mine construction | Interior sends 100K pages of documents to House MORE said in a release accompanying the review while thanking the independent board for "recognizing the importance of the rulemaking." 

The SAB’s review is consistent with longstanding criticism of the proposal, as science and medical groups have argued it will lead the EPA to ignore important public health research that must protect the privacy of human subjects.

“Over my career, I’ve reviewed hundreds of studies and papers. You don't review the raw data, you review the basic methods and statistics and results and see if the results support any conclusions that were drawn,” Andrew Rosenberg, with the Union of Concerned Scientists, previously told The Hill.

The board’s review follows an update to the proposal issued by the agency in March that expanded the scope of the rule. Rather than blocking some research entirely, it now gives preference to studies with public data.


But even with those tweaks, the proposal doesn’t address many of the underlying issues highlighted by critics.

It still doesn’t offer a clear picture of what qualifies as data, experts say, nor has the EPA sorted out the complications with protecting the private data used in studies — including personally identifiable information as well as confidential business information.

The SAB lists seven factors the agency still needs to resolve to protect privacy.

“There are legitimate legal, ethical, professional and financial reasons why researchers may be unable or unwilling to fully share ‘data’ — including statutes protecting participant privacy, experimental protocols assuring confidentiality of data for human subjects, and (for past studies) issues related to degradation and custody of data,” the board writes.

Read more on the SAB’s critique here

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BLOCKED: A federal court has blocked the Trump administration from giving stimulus funds to corporations owned by Alaska Natives, largely siding with tribes who argue the funds were intended for governments assisting with the pandemic.

U.S. District Court Judge Amit Mehta said giving “dollars to for-profit corporations does not jibe” with the law’s “general purpose of funding the emergency needs of ‘governments.’”

Congress set aside $8 billion in funds in a $2.2 trillion coronavirus stimulus package for tribal governments, but a form to apply for the assistance asked applicants to list either their total tribal population or their number of shareholders, a nod to the numerous corporations owned by Alaska Natives.

The so-called Alaska Native Corporations have vast land holdings and secure significant profits from timber and oil sales, which are funneled back to tribal members.

It is not uncommon for tribes to own businesses such as casinos outright, which provide funding for tribal governments. But while Alaska Native Corporations have tribal members as shareholders, those funds do not typically go into tribal coffers.

Sen. Tom UdallThomas (Tom) Stewart UdallGOP lawmaker says he will oppose any attempts to delay election Trump raises idea of delaying election Cook Political Report shifts several Senate races toward Democrats MORE (D-N.M.), vice chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, said Congress intended for the funds to flow only to government entities “so that they can continue essential government services.”

“Non-governmental tribal entities may well warrant relief under other CARES Act programs, but this funding in this title was intended for Tribal governments and should not be diverted,” Udall wrote to Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinTrump won't say if he disagrees with Birx that virus is widespread On The Money: Democratic leaders report 'some progress' in stimulus talks | Prosecutors hint at probe into 'possibly extensive and protracted criminal conduct at the Trump Organization' Democratic leaders report 'some progress' in talks with White House MORE and Interior Secretary David Bernhardt earlier this month, using the initialism for the stimulus legislation.

Read more on the decision here.

A NATURAL (GAS) ALLIANCE: A probe conducted by the House Oversight and Reform Committee has found that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) consistently sides with natural gas pipeline companies over property owners in certain land disputes. 

The committee found that in more than 99 percent of cases over the past 20 years, FERC has decided to give natural gas pipeline companies eminent domain; the move was approved 1,021 times and only rejected six times. 

Their investigation also determined that over the past 12 years, when landowners have sought to appeal FERC’s decision to give companies eminent domain over their property, in every case the commission has issued an order extending its time frame to respond. The appeals were ultimately denied every time. 

“The deck is totally stacked against landowners who want to defend their family’s land against takeover by private natural gas companies,” said a statement from Rep. Jamie RaskinJamin (Jamie) Ben RaskinFive takeaways from Fauci's testimony GOP lawmakers comply with Pelosi's mask mandate for House floor Five takeaways as panel grills tech CEOs MORE (D-Md.), who heads the panel's Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties. 

“FERC habitually delays its administrative duties to respond to landowner requests so long that those landowners have no opportunity to have their voices heard. By the time they have the chance to speak up, their land has already been invaded and in some cases destroyed,” he added. 

The results of the investigation were released in a video report published Tuesday by the committee. 


In response, FERC Commissioner Neil ChatterjeeIndranil (Neil) ChatterjeeOvernight Energy: 350 facilities skip reporting water pollution | Panel votes to block Trump's 'secret science' rule | Court upholds regulation boosting electric grid storage Court upholds regulation boosting electric grid storage Overnight Energy: Trump officials may pursue offshore drilling after election, report says | Energy regulators to delay projects pending appeals | EPA union calls for 'moratorium' on reopening plans MORE said in a statement that the organization “considers natural gas pipeline applications consistent with the Natural Gas Act and longstanding court precedent.”

“The Commission recognizes and is sympathetic to landowner concerns, and we are committed to improving our process. We have taken steps to do just that, with the goal of speeding up our consideration of requests for rehearing so that landowners can have their day in court more quickly,” Chatterjee added. 


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