House to EPA: Strengthening Transparency or Silencing Science?

The House Committee on Science, Space, & Technology (House Science Committee) is holding a hearing on “Strengthening Transparency or Silencing Science? The Future of Science in EPA Rulemaking.”

Dr. Tracey Woodruff, Professor and Director at the University of California, San Francisco Program on Reproductive Health and the Environment, gave this statement:

After EPA released its widely unpopular censored science rule, hundreds of scientific and academic institutions weighed in, giving expert commentary on why the rule would exclude critical science from Agency consideration which would result in harming health. Because of the backlash, at the September House Science hearing, Administrator Wheeler said EPA would drop plans to issue a final rule this year and plans to introduce a supplemental proposal in 2020. Based on a draft of the proposal released by the New York Times, it appears that not only has EPA refused to consider the expert commentary, this supplemental rule will fundamentally change the way scientists interact with the Agency and will jeopardize this country’s most foundational environmental protection rules such as the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act. It’s clear that all EPA is trying to do here is provide a solution to a non-existent problem, and with this update there is no question that this “Science Transparency” rule is less about “independent validation” and more about silencing science.

Over 60 public health, medical, academic, and scientific groups, including the University of California system, wrote a letter to the committee opposing EPA’s efforts to restrict the use of science in its policymaking.


Background

EPA’s science ‘transparency’ proposed rule, also known as the censored science rule, has drawn widespread criticism from scientists, doctors, children’s health researchers and universities because it will exclude relevant science from the Agency’s consideration.

EPA’s Science Advisory Board (SAB) voted almost unanimously to provide more comprehensive input on the entire rule in June, citing numerous unresolved scientific and technical issues. However, at the meeting EPA did not even commit to getting further input from the SAB, much less instituting the lengthier and open process recommended by experts.

At a September hearing of the House Science Committee, Administrator Wheeler indicated a retreat from the rule, promising to reintroduce a supplemental proposal in 2020. However, a draft of the proposal shows that EPA’s supplemental proposal doesn’t seem to have taken any of the substantive issues raised by public comments into consideration.

The new proposal actually expands the scope of the rule to apply to all studies EPA considers rather than only dose-response analyses. Even worse, this new censored science proposal would apply retroactively to regulations already in place, jeopardizing this country’s most foundational environmental protections including those established under the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act. This move would allow the agency to justify its roll back of rules that currently protect public health and the environment by discarding key scientific studies that underpin regulations.