EPA Proposes Broad Science Restrictions in Midst of Coronavirus Pandemic

, former deputy director, Center for Science & Democracy | March 18, 2020, 11:36 am EDT
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The Environmental Protection Agency moved today to restrict the types of research that can be used in public health protection decisions and scientific assessments. In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, the agency is recklessly giving the public just 60 days to comment on this sweeping proposal (the deadline is May 18). UCS developed a guide to assist you in making a public comment, and if you are able to do so, you should.

The “supplemental” proposal, which builds on a previous effort, would remove from consideration or downweight thousands of scientific papers by public health scientists when the raw data behind these studies cannot be made public. So while these experts are the front lines of the fight against COVID-19, treating patients, researching vaccines, and educating the public about staying safe, the EPA is trying to push this proposal through with as little criticism as they can get away with.

The American Public Health Association, the American Lung Association, and scores of other scientific organizations all strongly opposed the original proposal and urged EPA to withdraw it. Now, they will have to pull staff away from protecting our country to write extensive comments to stop the EPA from sabotaging itself. It’s a terrible diversion, but it’s one they must take.

In a letter sent this morning, we asked EPA to extend the comment deadline and hold virtual public hearings. The “supplemental” proposal is significantly broader than the original. According to EPA, it would apply not only to studies behind EPA decisions about vehicle emissions, clean air standards, and clean water protections, but also EPA’s own “state-of-science reports, technology assessments, weight-of-evidence analyses, meta-analyses, risk assessments, toxicological profiles of substances, integrated assessment models, hazard determinations, exposure assessments, or health, ecological, or safety assessments.”

The EPA has not articulated a problem it wants to solve. It faces no deadlines. But agency leaders see an opening. They feel compelled to carry out an idea hatched by tobacco industry lobbyists decades ago. The proposal was developed wholly by political staff. The EPA’s Science Advisory Board initially called it a “license to politicize” science and said that it would compromise the agency’s decision-making process.

Because this is written as a supplemental to the original rule, EPA will only take comments that address the changes made in the supplemental. Therefore, you should articulate how your comments respond to the document that was released today.

At a time when seeking out and utilizing cutting-edge research is a life or death situation, the EPA is moving in the opposite direction. What EPA is saying here is that it wants political control over what research is used in any of the agency’s work. Don’t let them get away with this without a fight. Commit to writing a public comment and we will provide you with the resources you need to be most effective. Our comment guide has a link to the public comment page on regulations.gov.

Note: On April 2, EPA moved the public comment deadline from April 17 to May 18. Learn more about why this is insufficient.

Photo: EPA

Posted in: Science and Democracy Tags: ,

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  • Bridget Kielas-Fecyk

    This is what happens when you put at the head of the EPA a man who has spent several years in his career trying to get laws written to have the EPA disbanded. And has sued the EPA countless times because they were cracking down on him for his companies being major polluters.

  • Disgusted

    California air resources board is a redundant agency and a very expensive one too. They spent 2.4 million (taxpayers $$$) on art for their new building. Plus, they hired that Hien Tran with the PHONY PH.D.! His “research” ” was the basis for the highly controversial regulations that has cost owners of trucks, buses and other diesel-powered machinery millions of dollars to upgrade their engines.”

  • M Bark

    Science has benefitted humanity for hundreds of years. Newton, Pasteur, Bell, Curie, Marconi, Einstein, our beloved Nuclear Age all based on science; all made life more understandable; got us to the 21st Century. Before science was the Dark Ages. Now we study the moon and stars. Now we have nuclear medicine. Now we have computers, phones in our pockets. The EPA wants to put science on a back burner? Let’s go back to the 1300s and burn the guilty people at a stake – never mind the fleas that actually spread bubonic plague. A little or a lot of mercury or lead won’t hurt anybody; rubbish.

  • bonita austin

    Our present “leaders” will do all they can to control science and the people of the US. If we don’t fight this then democracy will go down the tubes.

  • Holly Rumph

    If we take Science out of the discussion and replace it with politics we are lost as an educated society. Leave politics out of decisions regarding the health of Americans not science! Do the right thing and listen to the voters not the lobbyists!

  • Cassandra

    We need information and there should be better way at making scientific leaps and bounds which are needed. This is not the answer to what we are dealing with today at this very moment. Furthermore, everyone should be aware of these plans and have a say.

  • Glenn Stockard

    The comment period must be sufficient to be of any value. We cannot limit discussion and science and preserve our nation and our society.

    The elimination of science and the stifling of voices reduces our chances of success and risks lives.

  • Paulette Crockett

    This is insanity. Way too much is already politicized. We are headed in the wrong direction. People need information. The last thing anyone needs right now is putting scientific research in a cage.

  • Steve Weeks

    Wheeler is a flunky for the extraction industries and “science” favorable to and financed by them. He’s no different than Pruett though maybe not as corrupt. This antiscience garbage must stop.

  • brookefavillekildey

    I agree that the climate issue is the most important issue of our time. And it is time to do the right thing – transparency especially in a world that has forgotten about doing the right thing. Unfortunately, allowing lobbyist and political agendas to control and make the decisions is not in the best interest of the American people nor what they want. It is not democratic.
    What is the EPA afraid of? We are still a democracy – shouldn’t transparency be our right.

  • Jim Bailey

    tRUMP has got 2 GO. The health of Americans/the USA/the Planet Earth is not political. It’s essential.

  • Victoria Snavely

    This needs to be stops. The overreach of the EPA has went to far all, ready

  • Caroline Lindley

    We must have public hearings. We are still a democracy. Sensitive personal data should never be public. However, this issue demands transparency. Do the right thing. Not what lobbyists want. Again, we are still a democracy. Right?

    • Bridget Kielas-Fecyk

      No, we’re not.

  • Jared March

    It’s common sense that public policy should be based on public data. Why fight against transparency?

    • Greg Weaver

      Raw medical data cannot always be made public, for obvious reasons. That’s just one example. A lot of data the Pentagon collects and analyzes cannot be made public, because it would compromise the collection method. And the Pentagon takes environmental issues very seriously, even if our elected muppets don’t. Because the Pentagon doesn’t have a political agenda, just a mission: win every war the US is faced with. FWIW, they cite climate change as the #1 threat to global security in the coming century.