Climate threatsLawmakers question Pruitt’s proposal to limit EPA’s use of science

Published 25 April 2018

The EPA has announced new policy-making rules which, critics say, are aimed to reduce the role of science in the agency’s decisions. EPA’s proposal would limit the scientific information used in rulemaking, allow the agency to ignore scientific studies where the underlying data has not been made public, and force the agency to only use scientific data that can be reproduced. Lawmakers yesterday sent a detailed letter to EPA administrator Scott Pruitt, requesting more information on his proposal.

A group of Democratic lawmakers — Senators Jeff Merkley (Oregon), Tom Carper (Delaware), Sheldon Whitehouse (Rhodes Island), Kirsten Gillibrand (New York), Cory Booker (New Jersey.), Edward Markey (Massachusetts), and Chris Van Hollen (Maryland.), yesterday sent a letter to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt requesting more information on his planned proposal to change the ways in which EPA uses scientific information. EPA’s proposal would reportedly limit the scientific information used in rulemaking, allow the agency to ignore scientific studies where the underlying data has not been made public, and force the agency to only use scientific data that can be reproduced.

The senators wrote, “We write to inquire about recent reports regarding your intention to limit the ways in which EPA uses scientific information. Your proposed new policy likely violates several laws with which EPA must comply as the agency writes rules to protect our air, water and land from harmful pollution.”

The senators noted that the new policy requiring decision-making to only consider publicly available data could force EPA, an agency charged with protecting public health, to ignore peer-reviewed medical studies that rely on personally identifiable information to determine health impacts of its actions. The new rule could also prevent EPA from considering confidential business information, like proprietary safety information on a new chemical it is charged with regulating, or information submitted by auto companies intended to aid in determining appropriate greenhouse gas tailpipe standards. The new policy’s requirement that underlying data must be reproducible could also force EPA to ignore information from environmental disasters, such as the studies done after the BP oil spill or the human health studies done to examine the effects of nuclear weapons.