Writing in The Hill this week, CPR's Bill Buzbee and Mažeika Patricio Sullivan expand on a point they and their co-authors on an important article in Science magazine last month made ably: The Trump administration is running roughshod over science and law in its efforts to deregulate.
Their Science article focused on the administration's gutting of Obama era protections for the nation's waterways, and in particular, the ways EPA had ignored compelling scientific evidence of the harm their rule rewriting would do. In their new op-ed in The Hill, Buzbee and Sullivan lay out their case on waterways, and go on to observe that the administration took a similar science-blind, law-ignored approach in other recent rulemakings. They write:
This month’s methane rollback for the oil and gas sector similarly used questionable data and science, also raising new legal hurdles for future regulation. The Trump administration recently weakened longstanding requirements that federal agencies disclose environmental risks of their actions and approvals under the National Environmental Policy Act. And broad grants of pollution compliance waivers, supposedly due to COVID-19, have allowed unmonitored pollution.
Furthermore, the Department of Energy just proposed rolling back shower head flow efficiency regulations, responding to President Trump …
This afternoon, Science magazine is publishing an article [abstract available, article itself behind paywall] I co-authored with a number of distinguished environmental science professors from around the country. The article dissects the rule and shows the remarkable disregard for science that the Trump administration displayed in its recent dismantling of the 2015 Clean Water Rule, which protected millions of miles of rivers and acres of wetlands from polluters.
The article makes clear that the Trump administration’s Navigable Waters Protection Rule (NWPR), which just went into effect in June, has gutted protections for whole categories of waters despite the Clean Water Act’s express mandate that regulators protect the “chemical, physical, and biological integrity” of the nation's waters.
The scientist co-authors show how the new deregulatory action ignores or downplays what the best science establishes about the connectivity and functions of waters previously protected. The Obama-era rule …
During the coronavirus crisis, Dr. Anthony Fauci has become the voice of reason. Much of the public turns to him for critical information about public health while even President Trump finds it necessary to listen. In the Trump era, no one plays that role in the environmental arena. The result is a mindless campaign of deregulation that imperils public health and safety.
We can't clone Dr. Fauci or duplicate the unique circumstances that have made his voice so powerful. However, we can do several things that would make it harder for administrations to ignore science:
Over the last month, the scripts of the daily White House COVID-19 briefings have followed a familiar pattern: President Trump leads off with assurances that the crisis remains “totally under control” and that miracle cures are just around the corner. Then agency experts come to the microphone and tell a very different story.
For example, on March 19, the president reported that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) “very, very quickly” approved a malaria drug, hydroxychloroquine, for treating COVID-19 that it had previously approved for lupus, malaria, and rheumatoid arthritis. Later in the briefing, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the long-time head of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, cautioned listeners that controlled testing would have to be completed before we know whether the drug works on the novel coronavirus. And FDA later warned that it had definitely not approved hydroxychloroquine for fighting the virus.
The warnings …
The Trump administration's major deregulatory efforts share a common theme. They assiduously avoid having to rely on scientific or economic evidence. Confronting that evidence is time-consuming and difficult, particularly when it often comes out the other way. Instead, the administration has come up with clever strategies to shut out the evidence.
The effort to repeal the Clean Power Plan illustrates some of these strategies. The Obama administration's plan would have cut carbon emissions from power plants along with destructive particulate emissions from those plants. The Trump administration didn't have much of a policy argument against the plan. So instead, it argued that the Clean Air Act just didn't give EPA the power to take sensible measures against climate change. As the old trial lawyer's saying puts it, "If the evidence is against you, argue the law."
The Clean …
The Trump administration's hostile attitude toward science has continued unabated. The administration has used a triad of strategies: efforts to defund research, suppression of scientific findings, and embrace of fringe science.
The Democratic majority in the U.S. House of Representatives has a weighty agenda – from policy reform to oversight of the Trump administration. Given all that the House Democrats have on their plate, urging them to restore policy rationality by making the support of science-based policy central to their strategy might seem like a prosaic ask, but it's critically important.
Without science as the lodestar for government policymaking, anything goes, which is exactly the problem. As the Union of Concerned Scientists documented in a recent report, the Trump administration has been marginalizing science and isolating federal scientists for the past two years. Trump appointees have systematically undercut the science-based policies and regulations forged to protect human health and the environment. This has opened the door to irrational policymaking aimed at benefiting the industries and special interests to which these appointees are linked.
The bipartisan design of our …
Originally published on The Regulatory Review. Reprinted with permission.
In a previous essay, we critiqued the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) recently proposed transparency rule, arguing that the proposal conflicts with best scientific practices and would further erode the EPA’s ability to do its job. According to supporters, the central goal of the proposed rule is to increase the transparency of regulatory science. Unfortunately, the proposal does not begin to deliver. No matter how many times the word “transparency” is repeated to characterize the proposal, its effects would reverse progress. It also gives appointees like former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt and his successors unrestricted and unreviewable authority to reach politically motivated decisions that exclude high quality research.
Of all the problems that plague EPA today, ensuring scientific transparency is not all that difficult. A real transparency proposal, as opposed to the Pruitt EPA’s …
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 …
On March 9, President Obama announced a science integrity initiative aimed at taking the politics out of science. In his memorandum that day, he laid out the broad principles and instructed the director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) to “develop recommendations for Presidential action designed to guarantee scientific integrity throughout the executive branch” - and to have the recommendations within 120 days. John Holdren has since been confirmed as OSTP Director.
Yesterday, Tuesday July 7, was 120 days after March 9. But there’s been no announcement of what Holdren is recommending.
CPR scholars have written extensively about the clean science initiative, lauding the initial announcement, sending initial ideas to Holdren and asking him to open the process to public comment, and lauding the White House when they did just that. In May, we submitted our comments to OSTP with our full recommendations on …