EPA Rule Restricting Science Puts Agency’s Mission at Risk

Statement by Dr. Andrew A. Rosenberg, Union of Concerned Scientists

Published Jan 5, 2021

WASHINGTON (January 5, 2021)—Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will issue a final rule that dramatically restricts the science the agency can consider in rulemaking. The broad-reaching rule would downweight studies that rely on any nonpublic data—including studies involving private medical records. That limitation would interfere with many key public-health studies the agency relies on to set safeguards, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS).

Below is a statement by Dr. Andrew A. Rosenberg, director of the Center for Science and Democracy at UCS.

“EPA leadership is endangering the mission of the agency by pushing this indefensible rule. Scientists and public health experts across the country have repeatedly spoken out against this proposal and the agency has received nearly a million public comments, largely in opposition to the rule. It has no merits from the standpoint of science or transparency, and it will make it vastly harder for the agency to do its job of protecting public health and the environment. Administrator Andrew Wheeler has every reason to know the damage this rule will do, and he’s pushing it anyway.

“It’s even more egregious that EPA has chosen to finalize these restrictions on science during the worst public health crisis in our lifetimes. This rule would interfere with the agency’s urgent, ongoing work on a range of issues—including links between environmental factors and COVID-19, the impacts of wildfire smoke on public health, and the effects of the pesticide chlorpyrifos on children—by undermining the EPA’s ability to use the best available science. It’s a willful decision to throw away the exact tools the agency needs now.

“This rule is an unprecedented attack on the EPA and the laws it enforces, carried out by the very appointees who lead the agency. It will enable powerful industries to derail efforts to curb the pollution they create. And the damage will fall hardest on Black, Latinx and Indigenous communities who already bear disproportionate harms from environmental hazards in the air, water and soil.

“That EPA leadership has overruled the input of the scientific community, the voices of environmental justice advocates and simple common sense to push this rule is beyond disappointing. It’s a deliberate refusal to protect people’s lives.

“We look forward to working with the incoming administration to undo this destructive policy. Instead of discounting scientific information, new leadership at EPA must commit to using the best available science to craft policies that protect everyone’s health and safety.”

Center for Science and Democracy experts met virtually with the Office of Management and Budget in October to comment directly on the rule, and senior analyst Genna Reed reported on that meeting here.