Rita Schoeny is more than familiar with the inner workings of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). For 30 years, Schoeny served the EPA as a senior science advisor, where she worked long, hard and intelligently to provide the science supporting environmental contaminant regulation.
Nevertheless, since January, Schoeny has witnessed a "continuous assault" on the environmental protections she worked so hard to implement.
But Schoeny is not giving up.
In a recent op-ed for the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), Schoeny said she cannot afford to be discouraged...and neither can the public.
"As scientists, we must stand up for science and ensure that it is not tossed aside in public policy and decision-making," she said.
In Schoeny's experience, rigorous science represents the very foundation of the EPA. As such, she believes that the implementation and reversal of environmental regulations should not be a trivial exercise. No matter how long it takes, these regulations should be based on the best available, peer-reviewed science.
Schoeny cites the Mercury and Air Toxic Standards (MATS) as an example. The process to implement the MATS rule began in 1993 and wasn't completed until 2012. The entire process was so lengthy that it spanned multiple administrations and a few careers. Today, however, it is estimated that the MATS rule prevents 11,000 premature deaths and more than 100,000 heart and asthma attacks.
"It was frustrating at times, and exhausting, but we kept our focus on the goal of doing the right thing to improve public health," she said.
In the face of extreme environmental roll-backs, Schoeny is calling on scientists and other concerned members of the public to remain focused on the same goal.
"I fear that both the process and the science are being given short shrift as this administration acts to reverse sound regulatory decisions," she said in reference to the EPA's current attempts to roll back several Obama-era environmental regulations.
"This dismantling of environmental protection has begun in earnest, and I expect it will have severe, long-lasting effects."
Schoeny ends the piece by calling on scientists to defend evidence-based regulation. In particular, she beseeched scientists and concerned members of the public to contact their elected officials and to join groups like Save EPA.
"As scientists, we must continue to insist on the validity and thoroughness of our discipline, and we must repeatedly communicate about this to decision-makers," she concluded.
"In one of many hearings and reviews of mercury hazard, my late scientist friend and US EPA veteran Kathryn Mahaffey quoted John Adams: 'Facts are stubborn things.' She was right."