Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt has announced a controversial new rule that places heavy restrictions on which scientific research will be used to inform policies. The proposal has raised concerns that decades of environmental studies, which formed the foundation of clean air and water regulations, could be disregarded.
If the legislation is passed, EPA policies will be based only on scientific studies with data that is reproducible and can be made public. This has sparked outrage from scientists who explain that many crucial public health studies cannot be replicated because it would mean exposing people to harmful contaminants.
Furthermore, making all data public would compromise the confidentiality of study participants by releasing sensitive information.
Gina McCarthy is a former EPA administrator who now directs the Center for Health and the Global Environment at Harvard University.
“The best studies follow individuals over time, so that you can control all the factors except for the ones you’re measuring,” McCarthy told the Washington Post. “But it means following people’s personal history, their medical history. And nobody would want somebody to expose all of their private information.”
Earlier this week, 985 scientists aligned with the Union of Concerned Scientists signed a letter to Pruitt, urging him to stop pursuing the new restrictions.
“EPA can only adequately protect our air and water and keep us safe from harmful chemicals if it takes full advantage of the wealth of scientific research that is available to the agency,” the letter states.
Before President Trump put him in charge of the EPA, Scott Pruitt sued the agency 13 times as Oklahoma’s attorney general to block clean air and water policies. Like Trump, the EPA administrator has been very vocal about his doubt for climate science.
While the EPA is describing its proposed rule as a push for transparency, critics are warning that the outcome will be anything but transparent.
The letter composed by the Union of Concerned Scientists suggests that the real motivation behind the legislation is to make it easier for “political interference in science-based decision making.”
“The result will be policies and practices that will ignore significant risks to the health of every American.”
By Chrissy Sexton, Earth.com Staff Writer