CPR Archive for Wendy Wagner

Deconstructing Regulatory Science

by Wendy Wagner | June 19, 2018

Originally published on The Regulatory Review. Reprinted with permission.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt recently opened another front in his battle to redirect the agency away from its mission to protect human health and the environment. This time, he cobbled together a proposed rule that would drastically change how science is considered during the regulatory process.

Opposition soon mobilized. In addition to the traditional forces of public interest groups and other private-sector watchdogs, the editors of the most prominent scientific journals in the country raised the alarm and nearly 1,000 scientists signed a letter opposing the proposal.

This essay offers a contextual explanation of the reasons why scientists, who are typically loathe to enter the regulatory fray, are so alarmed.

In normal times, when agencies must evaluate the scientific evidence that informs a significant policy decision about health or environmental hazards, they typically take four sequential steps:

  • First, they convene a group of respected scientists from within and sometimes from outside the agency that includes representatives of the disciplines needed to make the determination, such as neurologists, statisticians, pediatricians, and hydrogeologists.
     
  • Second, the scientists gather all the available scientific research and review it carefully, making informed judgments about which studies are more or less convincing.
     
  • Third, in a synthesis stage known as ...

Conflict Disclosures for Regulatory Science: Slow but Steady Progress at Last

by Wendy Wagner | March 18, 2014
Basic disclosures of conflicts of interest have been required by the top science journals for decades. Yet most regulatory agencies – despite strong urging from a variety of bipartisan sources – have failed to require these disclosures for private research submitted to inform regulatory decisions. This omission is particularly alarming since, unlike journals, agencies used this research to determine the appropriate standards for protection of public health and welfare. If anything, one would expect the agencies to apply higher scientific standards and ...

Roll Call: The good science scam and an undemocratic provision

by Wendy Wagner | December 30, 2013
Some members of Congress apparently do not want agencies to regulate powerful agricultural and pharmaceutical interests in order to protect the public from dangerous risks. Yet, rather than say that — and be held accountable to the electorate for the consequences — they have developed what has become a standard, indeed almost boilerplate pretext to hide their endgame. Specifically, they have drafted a provision snuck in as a rider to a farm bill that requires agencies to develop elaborate “high ...

Competitive Chemical Regulation: A Greener Alternative

by Wendy Wagner | August 26, 2013
In 2005, the City of Austin discovered that coal-tar based asphalt sealant was killing the highly endangered Barton Springs salamander. The sealant was leaching off freshly sealed parking lots and entering downstream pools where these fragile animals live. The surprise ending to the City’s detective work was not only that the sealant was gradually destroying its river system but also that other asphalt sealants were far safer. More specifically, when the City investigated the market, it learned that there were other sealants that ...

The White House's New Science Integrity Policy: A First Assessment

by Wendy Wagner | December 17, 2010
The Obama Administration’s newly released science policy memo is an important and largely positive development in the effort to protect science and scientists from politics. In particular, the policy takes aim at many of the abuses of science and scientists that defined the Bush era. It’s particularly encouraging, for example, that the policy calls on political appointees to take a hands-off approach to science. That said, in several areas, the policy could have, and should have, gone farther. The tension between science ...

Steinzor-Shapiro Metrics on Display in EPA's June 2010 Strategic Plan

by Wendy Wagner | June 28, 2010
There is plenty of environmental despair right now . . . spreading oil in the Gulf, legislative inaction on climate change and a host of other issues, and the sense that for every step forward, there is a special interest that will take the nation two steps back.  So, in this downward spiral of disappointments, is there any ray of hope? Rena Steinzor and Sidney Shapiro hit upon one promising possibility in their important new book, The People's Agents and the ...

EPA's Lax Confidential Business Information Policy and the Importance of the Hampshire Associates Study

by Wendy Wagner | February 08, 2010
After laying dormant for decades, industries’ abuse of EPA’s permissive confidential business information program (CBI) is finally getting some serious attention. An investigation in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, and more recently articles in the Washington Post and Risk Policy Report; a report by the Environmental Working Group; and posts by Richard Denison at EDF, are turning the tide. Those of us at CPR who have spilled ink on various CBI problems over the years (i.e., Mary Lyndon, Tom McGarity, Sid ...

A New Look at Science in Regulatory Policy

by Wendy Wagner | August 10, 2009
On Wednesday, the Bipartisan Policy Center's Science for Policy Project released its report (press release, full report) on the use of science in regulation-making. I was on the panel and thus am a bit biased, but I think the report makes a terrific contribution. It significantly narrows the range of positions that can be credibly debated about the appropriate level of oversight needed to ensure the quality of regulatory science. At the same time, it introduces some important new ideas ...

Getting from Here to There(s)

by Wendy Wagner | August 23, 2008
As the moderator of this blog, I am the designated devil’s advocate. Read together, Rena’s and John’s entries make my assignment easy. Both write upbeat and insightful entries about their preferred approaches for the future, but they reach diametrically opposite conclusions. John suggests that the best solution for the manipulation of regulatory science is to base environmental policy on as little science as possible (or at least to be more self-conscious about whether we really need science to make environmental ...

What Can Really be Done about the Perversion of Science by Politics

by Wendy Wagner | August 18, 2008
One can quickly become depressed by the problems afflicting the science used for regulation of public health and the environment, and CPR bears a substantial share of responsibility for painting a grim picture of a world where politics prevails over science. In a Cambridge-published book, Rescuing Science from Politics, and an accompanying white paper that summarizes the book, along with a second white paper on the problems of scientific secrecy, CPR offers a wide-ranging diagnosis of what ails the science used ...

Also from Wendy Wagner

Wendy E. Wagner is the Joe A. Worsham Centennial Professor at the University of Texas School of Law, Austin Texas. Prior to joining the University of Texas Law faculty, Professor Wagner was a professor at the Case Western Reserve University School of Law and School of Management, and was a visiting professor at the Columbia Law School and the Vanderbilt Law School.

Deconstructing Regulatory Science

Wagner | Jun 19, 2018 | Regulatory Policy

Competitive Chemical Regulation: A Greener Alternative

Wagner | Aug 26, 2013 | Regulatory Policy

The Center for Progressive Reform

455 Massachusetts Ave., NW, #150-513
Washington, DC 20001
info@progressivereform.org
202.747.0698

© Center for Progressive Reform, 2015