FILE PHOTO: Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew Wheeler speaks during a news conference at the Justice Department in Washington, U.S., September 14, 2020. Susan Walsh/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo


The Environmental Protection Agency on Tuesday released a new rule altering what types of research it will prioritize when creating policy.

The EPA said it will increase transparency in how it creates new regulations, emphasizing the public’s right to know the science behind them. Specifically, research that makes its data available to the public will be prioritized over research where data is not available. This change will not impact existing regulations. The rule also won’t require confidential information to be released. 

EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler wrote in a Wall Street Journal op-ed that the new rule will “restore trust in government.” Administrators who “cherry-pick” data to fit their agenda may find themselves checked by the public who can look over the same information. 

Many leading researchers and academic organizations argue the new criteria will prevent the EPA from using valuable research on human subjects simply because it often includes confidential data. They also say that the additional level of scrutiny is designed to impede or block access to the best available science, weakening the ability to create new protections against pollution, pesticides and even pandemics.

Public health studies have been instrumental in crafting health and environmental rules. For example, Harvard’s 1990s Six Cities study used anonymized health data from thousands of people to establish links between air pollution and higher mortality. That data led to new limits on air pollutants under the Clean Air Act. Deprioritizing that type of research “will lead to uninformed and insufficiently stringent standards, causing avoidable deaths and illnesses,” said Richard Revesz, an expert in pollution law at the New York University School of Law. President-elect Joe Biden’s administration could remove or rewrite the rule, but it could take months to years. The incoming EPA administrator could sidestep the rule while it works to undo it.


This section includes an aggregation of articles showing different viewpoints on the topic.

EPA to Give Preference to Scientific Studies That Disclose Data – Wall Street Journal – 1/5/2021
In future decisions, the agency must now give greater consideration to studies in this area in which underlying dose-response data is available for independent validation. And when it proposes new regulations it must make available that science informing the rule to the public. The rule won’t categorically exclude any data, Mr. Wheeler wrote, adding that the new practices can be applied without releasing personal information or violating confidentiality.

As his days in office dwindle, Trump adopts another rule marginalizing science – Los Angeles Times – 1/5/2021
The rule could have a profound effect by, among other things, barring the EPA from using anonymized health impact studies to decide whether a compound or emission ought to be regulated. Such studies have been relied upon for years in measuring the potential effects of pollutants. Think mercury and particulate matter from smokestacks. Think water quality. Think any intersection of regulatory decisions and studies in which people participate under the promise of privacy.

‘They have an agenda’: EPA’s Andrew Wheeler rips ‘activists masquerading as environmental reporters’ – Washington Times – 1/5/2021
“The American people’s trust in government and their trust in the media is at an all-time low, and who can blame them when they see politicians arguing over scientific facts and environmental activists masquerading as environmental reporters?” said Mr. Wheeler at a virtual forum hosted by the free-market Competitive Enterprise Institute. “Who are they to believe?”

Another Last-Minute Poison Pill: Trump Administration Kneecaps EPA’s Use of Sound Science To Protect Public Health – Environmental Working Group – 1/5/2021
With two weeks left in President Trump’s term, his Environmental Protection Agency has once again issued an 11th-hour rule that will hamper the incoming Biden administration’s efforts to protect public health. The Washington Post reports that the new rule, in the works since the beginning of the Trump administration, restricts the EPA’s use of important scientific studies when considering regulatory action on pollution and toxic chemicals.


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