New EPA Science Restrictions Would Devastate Public Health and Environmental Protections

Statement by Andrew Rosenberg, Union of Concerned Scientists

Published Nov 11, 2019

WASHINGTON (November 11, 2019)—U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler is set to issue a supplemental notice on a proposed rule that will dramatically restrict what science the agency can consider. The supplemental notice expands the scope and severity of the proposed rule, stipulating that the agency can only use scientific research to craft regulations if all of the underlying data is publicly available. These new restrictions would prevent the EPA from using vital health studies that contain confidential medical information to protect the public from environmental threats—an unnecessary change that violates the EPA’s mission, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), which noted that the EPA has relied on studies using confidential medical data to set air, water and chemical rules for decades.

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

“Let’s call this what it is: an excuse to abandon clean air, clean water, and chemical safety rules. This new restriction on science would upend the way we protect communities from pollution and other health threats.

“The proposal is even worse than I expected. It doesn’t just restrict the science that EPA can use to institute new rules—it works retroactively, allowing political appointees at the agency to topple standards that have worked for decades to deliver clean air and clean water. There’s no scientific reason or public interest to restricting the science that EPA can consider in this way—it will just make the laws that protect public health and the environment nearly impossible to carry out.

“Administrator Wheeler’s claims about the need for these restrictions don’t pass the laugh test. Everything about this rule makes a mockery of the EPA’s claim that this change is necessary for transparency. This rule was driven by political operatives. It’s being rushed through with minimal opportunity for public comment. And it introduces pointless hurdles and delays into the policymaking process that will compromise the federal government’s ability to protect the public.

“This is a blatant removal of well-established science from the policymaking process, to the benefit of polluters and at a huge cost to the marginalized communities who face the biggest threat from pollution.

“The Trump administration has a clear pattern of sidelining science and undermining public health protections. If this rule is finalized, it would be one of the most damaging and far-reaching policy changes enacted by the administration. It would put the entire enterprise of developing science-based public health safeguards at risk.

“The EPA has one job—to protect public health and the environment, based on the best available science. With this proposal, Administrator Wheeler has effectively announced that he’s abandoning that mission.”

On Thursday, November 13, the U.S. House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology will hold a hearing looking at the EPA’s use of science in rulemaking.