Among the most successful products of the partnership between science and democracy in the United States are the laws and government entities that we have created, with the help of science, to protect public health and the environment. Science-based safeguards like the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts continue to improve quality of life for Americans. They have also provided economic benefits and stimulated job-creating innovations.

However, in recent years there have been efforts in Congress to weaken these protections, bog them down in red tape, or dismantle them entirely. The Center for Science and Democracy is pushing back against these efforts, countering misinformation and advocating for strong, science-based regulations.

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“Sound Science” and other euphemisms

Efforts to weaken protections are often couched in terms that make them sound like responsible measures, even necessary reforms. Who could object to things like “sound science” or “regulatory accountability”? Yet on closer inspection, the main impact of bills bearing such labels would be to make regulatory processes so burdensome that agencies would be effectively prevented from doing their jobs.

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The Endangered Species Act

Signed into law by President Nixon in 1973, the Endangered Species Act is designed to protect biodiversity, which is crucial to the health of ecosystems and has provided humans with many practical benefits. The ESA has been successful largely because it requires the government to base its listing decisions on the best available science.

But because the ESA can create problems for businesses whose activities may have harmful impacts on a protected species, listing decisions have been subject to relentless scrutiny, interference and pressure during the law’s brief history. And in recent years, Congress has taken the unprecedented step of removing protections for specific species by legislative fiat, effectively circumventing the role of science in listing decisions.

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Keeping environmental protections grounded in science

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has the simple yet profound charge "to protect human health and the environment."  EPA scientists apply their expertise to protect the public from air and water pollution, clean up hazardous waste, and study emerging threats such as global warming. Their job is tremendously important to the quality of life we all enjoy.

But in recent years, the EPA's regulatory decisions have often become political footballs, with scientific recommendations disregarded or watered down or their implementation unduly delayed. Agency scientists have reported pervasive interference in their work. Most recently, some members of Congress proposed a law that would hamstring the EPA under the guise of transparency by insisting that all data used in formulating agency rulings must be made public—a requirement that would make the agency's job impossible.

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Strengthening chemical safety rules

U.S. citizens deserve legal protection from chemical hazards. And we have it—in theory. The Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) of 1976 is supposed to ensure that chemicals that could damage our health are kept out of the products we use every day.

But in practice, TSCA is inadequate, because it places the burden of proof on regulators to prove risk, rather than on manufacturers to prove safety. The law makes it so difficult to restrict chemicals that the EPA has effectively stopped trying to do it.

Along with our allies in the Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families Coalition, the Center for Science and Democracy is working to reform our chemical safety laws and give U.S. citizens the protections that we deserve (and that our European counterparts already enjoy).

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We Need Your Support
to Make Change Happen

We can ensure that decisions about our health, safety, and environment are based on the best available science—but not without you. Your generous support helps develop science-based solutions for a healthy, safe, and sustainable future.