UPDATE: On January 27, a federal district court in Montana found that the Trump EPA unlawfully made the censored science rule immediately effective. The court then delayed its effective date until February 5. This doesn't overturn the rule, but it does give the Biden-Harris administration more flexibility as it works to fully repeal this damaging policy.
In a last-ditch effort to further weaken the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) ability to protect public health, this week, the Trump administration published its final “censored science” rule. As stated in the Center for Progressive Reform’s comments on the draft rulemaking, this proposal unjustifiably limits the research that can be used in regulatory decision-making, giving more weight to studies where the underlying data is publicly available. These restrictions will apply to dose-response studies — which measure how much an increase in pollution exposure increases public health harms — and which often rely on medical and other private data.
Furthermore, in the final rule, EPA continues to make the baseless claim that the Federal Housekeeping Statute, an obscure law dating back to 1789, provides the agency the authority to issue this rule. It’s doubtful that this law even applies to EPA. Even if it does, it’s clear that the law does not authorize the agency to issue an extreme rule like this, which is intended to significantly undermine the ability of the public to meaningfully participate in the development of EPA rulemakings.
In the midst of a pandemic that has claimed more than 350,000 American lives and where the connections between air pollution and COVID-19 mortality are clear, the EPA can no longer ignore its responsibility to protect public health. CPR urges the incoming Biden administration to repeal this misleading and harmful rulemaking and support efforts like the Scientific Integrity Act, which would standardize scientific integrity policies across all federal regulatory agencies.
The EPA has a moral, legal, and scientific obligation to abandon this rule before it does any significant damage to the agency’s future regulatory decisions and its ability to protect Americans from dangerous pollution and toxic chemicals.
Top photo by the Natural Resources Defense Council, used under a Creative Commons license.