E.Andrew Wheeler, Head of the Environmental Protection Agency, announced today (Jan. 5) a final ruling that introduces new restrictions on the weighing of studies in the formulation of the agency’s rules. While Wheeler and other proponents of the change say the rule ensures the public can access the data that underlies regulatory decisions, critics say it would protect the polluters by limiting consideration of studies that are on confidential medical information. Such studies to investigate the health effects of pollutants on the human population formed the basis of important environmental regulations in the past.
“This really appears to be an attempt by Wheeler to permanently trample major polluters,” Benjamin Levitan, a senior lawyer for the Environmental Defense Fund, told the Associated Press. “It ties the hands of future administrations on how to protect public health.”
The change has been in the works since 2018, however The New York Times reports that the idea of targeting “secret science” to identify barriers to new regulation stems from a strategy proposed in the 1990s to protect tobacco companies. Former Representative Lamar Smith (R-TX) later advocated two bills to bring about a policy similar to the EPA’s new rule. Each of them were passed in the US House, most recently in 2017, but died in the Senate. He started working with then EPO Administrator Scott Pruitt three years ago to develop the “Transparency” rule.
The original draft rules only covered dose-response studies that related the amount of a toxin to its effects. However, it was later extended to other types of studies. The final rule has been refined and stipulates that the EPA “will give more consideration to studies where the underlying dose-response data are available in a manner sufficient for independent validation”.
“Dose-response data explains the relationship between the amount of a chemical or pollutant and its effects on human health and the environment – and forms the basis of EPA regulations,” Wheeler wrote in an opinion piece in The Wall Street Journal published yesterday. “If the American people are to be regulated by interpreting these scientific studies, the data deserves to be reviewed within the framework of the scientific process and American self-government.”
Critics say the rule would have excluded EPA regulations, which are vital to protecting public health, but were formulated based on studies whose data were not publicly available. The new rule is not retroactive but could come into play when existing rules are renewed. In a statement, Sudip Parikh, who heads the American Association for the Advancement of Science, says that AAAS “along with the vast majority of the scientific, academic, medical, and public health communities are strongly opposed to the definitive rule because it uses science to make informed decisions Decisions. ”
“Right now we are in a major public health crisis from a deadly respiratory virus, and there is evidence that exposure to air pollution increases the risk of poorer outcomes,” said Mary Rice, medical doctor and chair of the American Thoracic Society’s environmental health policy committee he says Times. “We want the EPA to make future air quality decisions using all available evidence, and not just set arbitrary limits on what it thinks.”
In his announcement of the rule today, posted on an online forum hosted by the conservative Competitive Enterprise Institute, Wheeler blamed the “controversy in the press” for the controversy over the rule that does not prohibit the EPA from investigating. He said the rule will prioritize studies with underlying data that are either publicly available or “available through restricted access” and will “support the best science and strengthen the legal defenses of our rule-making”.
Andrew Rosenberg, director of the Center for Science and Democracy of the Union of Scientists Concerned, saw the measure differently. “That the EPA leadership has overridden the contribution of the scientific community, the voices of environmental justice advocates and the common sense to enforce this rule is more than disappointing,” he wrote in one The scientist. “It’s a deliberate refusal to protect people’s lives.”
The rule could potentially be repealed by President-elect Joe Biden’s administration, but it could take months. The Washington Post Remarks.