E.P.A.’s Final Deregulatory Rush Runs Into Open Staff Resistance

“As President Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency rushes to complete its regulatory rollbacks, agency staff, emboldened by the Biden victory, moves to stand in the way….

Thomas Sinks directed the E.P.A.’s science advisory office and later managed the agency’s rules and data around research that involved people. Before his retirement in September, he decided to issue a blistering official opinion that the pending rule — which would require the agency to ignore or downgrade any medical research that does not expose its raw data — will compromise American public health….”

EPA’s independent science board says ‘secret science’ proposal may ‘reduce scientific integrity’ | TheHill

“The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) independent board of science advisers had harsh words for an agency plan to limit the types of studies it considers when crafting regulations, saying the EPA had failed to justify the need for the policy.

The policy was first proposed by former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt in 2018 to battle “secret science.” He argued that in order to increase transparency, the agency should limit consideration of studies that don’t share their underlying data….

The SAB’s review is consistent with longstanding criticism of the proposal, as science and medical groups have argued it will lead the EPA to ignore important public health research that must protect the privacy of human subjects….”

Career Employees Allege EPA Leaders Silenced Them on Key Deregulation Effort – Government Executive

“The Environmental Protection Agency suppressed the work of its career employees and dismissed legitimate science in taking a key deregulatory action, dozens of former and current employees have alleged. The employees are asking investigators to discipline the top officials responsible. 

The complaint, issued by the nonprofit advocacy group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, concerned orders from EPA’s top brass during its process of repealing the Waters of the United States rule implemented during the Obama administration. The current and former employees, made up mostly of EPA staff but also of Army Corps of Engineers and Fish and Wildlife Service workers, called on the EPA inspector general and scientific integrity officer to launch investigations and hold the political appointees accountable. They named EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler and a half-dozen top officials in the agency’s offices of Water and General Counsel in their complaint. …

Inquiries at EPA’s Science Integrity Office have spiked under the Trump administration. Employees at agencies like EPA, NASA, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have previously told Government Executive they are facing unprecedented interference from political leadership, including rollbacks of previous work and meddling in research. Scientists reported being left out of key meetings, feeling fearful in their offices and a general sense of low morale. A Union of Concerned Scientists survey in 2018 found federal employees felt stymied by censorship and interference from political appointees, including 50% who said political considerations were hindering agencies’ ability to make science-based decisions….”

Career Employees Allege EPA Leaders Silenced Them on Key Deregulation Effort – Government Executive

“The Environmental Protection Agency suppressed the work of its career employees and dismissed legitimate science in taking a key deregulatory action, dozens of former and current employees have alleged. The employees are asking investigators to discipline the top officials responsible. 

The complaint, issued by the nonprofit advocacy group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, concerned orders from EPA’s top brass during its process of repealing the Waters of the United States rule implemented during the Obama administration. The current and former employees, made up mostly of EPA staff but also of Army Corps of Engineers and Fish and Wildlife Service workers, called on the EPA inspector general and scientific integrity officer to launch investigations and hold the political appointees accountable. They named EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler and a half-dozen top officials in the agency’s offices of Water and General Counsel in their complaint. …

Inquiries at EPA’s Science Integrity Office have spiked under the Trump administration. Employees at agencies like EPA, NASA, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have previously told Government Executive they are facing unprecedented interference from political leadership, including rollbacks of previous work and meddling in research. Scientists reported being left out of key meetings, feeling fearful in their offices and a general sense of low morale. A Union of Concerned Scientists survey in 2018 found federal employees felt stymied by censorship and interference from political appointees, including 50% who said political considerations were hindering agencies’ ability to make science-based decisions….”

EPA employees push ‘bill of rights’ to protect scientific integrity | TheHill

“Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) unionized employees have drafted a bill of rights, asking the agency to recognize the need for scientific integrity, research into climate science and the ability to enforce environmental laws without political interference….”

EPA wants to rollback environmental regulations despite criticism from scientific advisers. – The Washington Post

“The Environmental Protection Agency is pushing ahead with sweeping changes to roll back environmental regulations despite sharp criticism from a panel of scientific advisers, most of whom were appointed by President Trump.

The changes would weaken standards that govern waterways and wetlands across the country, as well as those that dictate gas mileage for U.S. automobiles. Another change would restrict the kinds of scientific studies that can be used when writing new environmental regulations, while a fourth would change how the EPA calculates the benefits of limiting air pollutants from coal-fired power plants.

Three of the four draft reports, posted online Tuesday, suggest that the administration’s proposals conflict with established science. …”

EPA’s ‘transparency rule’ is bad for science and the environment – STAT

“A proposed rule by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that allegedly aims to strengthen transparency in regulatory science suggests that science is broken. It isn’t.

We know it works because we can see the life-saving transplant technologies, hurricane forecasts, new medications, pest-resistant crops, and countless other breakthroughs that exist because of science. This discipline isn’t perfect, but it is the best tool available to safeguard the planet and its people.

Last year, the EPA proposed a rule requiring that scientists disclose all raw data before any study conclusions would be considered. The rule, titled “Strengthening Transparency in Regulatory Science,” would apply retroactively to regulations already in place. It would make it harder to enact new regulations, because many studies from the past rely on personal medical information that was collected under confidentiality agreements and include consensus from reports that may not have shared all of the data according in ways compliant with the proposed rule….”

Joint statement on EPA proposed rule and public availability of data (2019) | Science

“Eighteen months after articulating our concerns (1) regarding the 2018 “Strengthening Transparency in Regulatory Science” rule proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) (2), we have become more concerned in response to recent media coverage and a 13 November hearing on the role of science in decision-making at the EPA. These events suggest that the proposed rule is now moving toward implementation; whether it includes amendments sufficient to address the concerns raised by us and many others remains a question.

Our previous statement on the proposed rule, authored and published by the editors-in-chief of five major scientific journals in May 2018, reflected alarm that the proposal’s push for “transparency” would be used as a mechanism for suppressing the use of relevant scientific evidence in policy-making, including public health regulations. After the public comment period for the proposed rule closed, the EPA reported more than 590,000 comments from individuals and scientific, medical, and legal groups, many of which articulated similar concerns (3).

As leaders of peer-reviewed journals, we support open sharing of research data, but we also recognize the validity of scientific studies that, for confidentiality reasons, cannot indiscriminately share absolutely all data. Datasets featuring personal identifiers—including studies evaluating genomes of thousands of people to characterize medically relevant genetic variants—are but one example. Such data may be critical to developing new drugs or diagnostic tools but cannot be shared openly; even anonymized personal data can be subject to re-identification, and it has been a longstanding practice for agencies and journals to acknowledge the value of data privacy adjustments. The principles of careful data management, as they inform medicine, are just as applicable to data regarding environmental influences on public health. Discounting evidence from the decision-making process on the basis that some data are confidential runs counter to the EPA stated mission “to reduce environmental risks…based on the best available scientific information” (4)….

We urge the EPA to continue to adopt an approach that ensures the data used in decision-making are the best available, which will at times require consideration of peer-reviewed scientific data, not all of which may be open to all members of the public. The most relevant science, vetted through peer review, should inform public policy. Anything less will harm decision-making that claims to protect our health….”

E.P.A. to Limit Science Used to Write Public Health Rules – The New York Times

“The Trump administration is preparing to significantly limit the scientific and medical research that the government can use to determine public health regulations, overriding protests from scientists and physicians who say the new rule would undermine the scientific underpinnings of government policymaking….”