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Nearly Every Major Scientific Organization Has Opposed The EPA's 'Transparency' Rule

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CARLY CASSELLA
26 APR 2018
 

This week, head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Scott Pruitt proposed a new rule, which would severely restrict the agency's use of science.

Under the new policy, which Pruitt says will make things more "transparent, objective and measurable," the EPA would be unable to use research unless scientists and industry groups could examine the raw data.

 

On the surface, this may seem like a good way to improve academic rigor, but dig a little deeper, and scientists say the proposed policy is nothing more than an insidious way to undermine the EPA's mission.

David Michaels, a professor at George Washington University, who used to work under President Obama, went so far as to call the plan "weaponized transparency."

Why, you ask? Well, for starters, the EPA's environmental regulations for clean air and water draw on private personal health data from thousands of Americans - private as in, not able to be made public.

This means that these are exactly the sorts of studies the EPA would no longer be able to use.

"Administrator Pruitt claims to be worried about "secret science" at the EPA, but in reality, he's squashing the science that protects Americans from air, water, and land pollution," Gretchen Goldman from the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) wrote in Scientific American.

This week, the UCS put together a growing list of all the mainstream scientific and academic organizations that have opposed the new restrictions on the EPA's use of science.

 

So far the list includes roughly 50 organizations, including Stanford University, Harvard University, the National Council for Science and the Environment, the American Public Health Association, and many, many more.

But the most vocal organization on the list goes to the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), which has again and again criticized Pruitt's proposed policy.

"The administrator's latest attempt to reject valid scientific evidence fundamentally mischaracterizes the way science is conducted and made available for decision-making," said Rush Holt, the chief executive officer of the AAAS, in a recent statement.

"If put into practice, EPA could prohibit, or make it incredibly costly, for the agency to use a wide swath of high-quality scientific research."

In a cheeky attempt to show how one-sided the debate is, the UCS also published a list of mainstream scientific and academic organizations that support the new policy.

The list is empty except for this:

This is not to say that nobody supports Pruitt's proposal. Two former tobacco industry-paid PR men, Myron Ebell and Stephen Milloy, have publicly supported the measure, as have several GOP lawmakers.

 

"I know of no other administration official who goes on the offensive, who isn't intimidated and who does what he thinks is the right thing regardless," said climate denier and long-time proponent of the new policy Representative Lamar Smith. 

"That's why we appreciate the job that the administrator is doing."

The new policy announcement comes as Pruitt faces accusations of unethical behavior, corruption and extravagant spending.

"They're trying to distract from the ethical questions and fiscal scandals that are going on," said Liz Purchia, who served as the EPA's communications director until January 2017.

"Right now, it'll be a proposed rule and it's unclear if it will ever go into effect."

The scientific community has made it very clear that they do not wish for the policy to go into effect, but Pruitt has never been one to listen to the scientific consensus.