Sen. Tom Carper, D-Delaware, top Democrat on the Environment and Public Works Committee, was joined by Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-Rhode Island; Jeff Merkley, D-Oregon; Kirsten Gillibrand, D-New York; Cory Booker, D-New Jersey; Edward Markey, D-Massachusetts; and Chris Van Hollen, D-Maryland, in sending an April 24 letter to Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt requesting more information on his planned proposal to change the ways in which EPA uses scientific information.
EPA’s proposal, scheduled to be announced later today, would reportedly limit the scientific information used in rulemaking, allow the agency to ignore scientific studies where the underlying data has not been made public and force the agency to only use scientific data that can be reproduced.
The new policy requiring decision-making to consider publicly available data could force EPA, an agency charged with protecting public health, to ignore peer-reviewed medical studies that rely on personally identifiable information to determine health impacts of its actions. The new rule could also prevent EPA from considering confidential business information, like proprietary safety information on a new chemical it is charged with regulating, or information submitted by auto companies intended to aid in determining appropriate greenhouse gas tailpipe standards. The new policy’s requirement that underlying data must be reproducible could also force EPA to ignore invaluable information from environmental disasters, such as the studies done after the BP oil spill or the human health studies done to examine the effects of nuclear weapons.
“We write to inquire about recent reports regarding your intention to limit the ways in which EPA uses scientific information. Your proposed new policy likely violates several laws with which EPA must comply as the agency writes rules to protect our air, water and land from harmful pollution,” wrote the senators.
“The proposed new policy will require EPA — when developing rules — to rely only on scientific studies where the underlying data have been made public and are available to be reproduced. Such a policy would likely violate several laws that mandate the use of ‘best available science,’ including the Toxic Substances Control Act and Safe Drinking Water Act because it would require EPA to ignore some of the ‘best’ scientific studies. Courts have explained that ‘best available science’ means that agencies ‘should seek out and consider all existing scientific evidence relevant to the decision’ and ‘cannot ignore existing data.’ In addition to potentially violating statutory requirements, EPA’s proposed new policy would also likely run afoul of the Administrative Procedure Act, which requires agencies to consider and respond to all information presented to it pursuant to a rulemaking,” the senators continued.
On April 23, nearly 1,000 scientists sent a letter to Administrator Pruitt calling on him to “cease any plans to restrict the types of science that the EPA can use in regulatory decision making. 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.”
In April 2017, Carper sent a letter to EPA requesting information on EPA’s analysis of HR 1430, the HONEST Act, legislation that proposed changes to EPA’s use of scientific data that closely resembles EPA’s anticipated announcement today. In that letter, Carper shared concerns regarding reports that EPA’s leadership prevented analysis conducted by EPA career staff analysts from being transmitted to the Congressional Budget Office. That staff analysis found that the HONEST Act would cost $250 million per year to implement. EPA has yet to respond to the April 2017 letter.
The full text of the letter to Pruitt is available at bit.ly/2qViBBw.