Pruitt’s Science Advisors Urge Him to Let Them Review His So-Called Transparency Initiative

June 29, 2018 | 2:46 pm
Gage Skidmore/Flickr
Genna Reed
Former Director of Policy Analysis

One week after issuing its letters on EPA’s spring and fall regulatory agendas, the SAB posted a letter to Administrator Pruitt urging him to charge the SAB with reviewing the flawed restricted science rule before taking further action on the proposed rule due to the very important scientific considerations needed for transparency at the agency. This is a strong statement coming from the Administrator’s very own science advisors, 18 of whom were hand-selected by Pruitt himself.

The letter calls out the agency for not including agency and outside scientists in the development of the proposal, writing, “the precise design of the proposed rule appears to have been developed without a public process for soliciting input from the scientific community,” made clear by the fact that there are many considerations having to do with making public sensitive confidential data that were simply ignored in the rulemaking.

Among the issues the SAB intends to explore in its review of the rule are:

  • How data restrictions could have impacts on regulatory programs at the agency, thus affecting regulatory costs and benefits with long-term implications.
  • How much of the confidential human subject data can and should not ever be made public for legal and ethical reasons.
  • How reanalyses of data, like the Harvard Six Cities study, can be done rigorously without public access to data and models.
  • How expert panels are already vetting science at the EPA without reanalyzing the original data and methods.

Emails we obtained through FOIA revealed that political appointees, not scientists, crafted this policy. It serves no scientific purpose, undermines the EPA’s work, and has drawn wide condemnation from scientists, which is why it needs further scrutiny by the SAB to determine what its impacts on the agency and on the public would be.

It’s important for EPA to have this kind of advice, especially on a rule that has such extreme ramifications on the way the agency will be able to consider the best available science. Attempts to politicize, weaken, or simply ignore the SAB and other advisory committees under this administration jeopardize the ability for important dialogues like this to occur, which is why we’ve been monitoring and pushing back against these types of attacks.

We expect Administrator Pruitt to take this formal call for review seriously and defer agency action on the rule until SAB review is complete and EPA has the chance to review and respond to its recommendations. He should thus act immediately to call on his advisors and seek the input of the scientific community and the greater public that has so far been absent from the EPA’s process for this rule.