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EPA Chief Scott Pruitt Moves to End Reliance on ‘Secret Science’

Kevin Mooney, The Daily Signal

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt proposed a new rule Tuesday aimed at bolstering the role of science in developing regulations.

Pruitt announced the change at an event at the Environmental Protection Agency’s headquarters that was closed to The Daily Signal and other press. It could, however, be viewed online.

“The era of secret science at EPA is coming to an end,” Pruitt said. “The ability to test, authenticate, and reproduce scientific findings is vital for the integrity of the rule-making process. Americans deserve to assess the legitimacy of the science underpinning EPA decisions that may impact their lives.”

The EPA crafted the proposal to ensure that the science standing behind the agency’s actions is made public so that it can be independently verified, officials said in a press release.

Pruitt’s decision to make the rule will prevent agency officials from using undisclosed scientific data as the foundation for regulations that cost affected individuals and businesses tens of billions of dollars.

Going forward, Pruitt said, EPA regulators will be permitted to use only scientific studies with data available for public consumption. Pruitt’s proposed rule also calls for EPA-funded studies to make all data public.

Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, is among EPA critics who have faulted the agency’s reliance on data derived from “secret science” to promulgate regulations they view as highly burdensome to average Americans.

Smith and other congressional critics point out, for instance, that over the past two decades, the EPA’s air quality regulations have been based on science produced in a taxpayer-funded study from Harvard and Brigham Young University researchers that the agency kept sealed from public scrutiny. The study is widely known as the Six Cities Study.

In 1994, an EPA external science advisory board known as the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee requested the study data, but the agency denied the request. In 1997, Congress also asked, but the EPA again denied the request.

The following year, Congress passed legislation calling for the EPA’s scientific data to be made public, but an appellate court ruled that the law was not enforceable.

In 2013, House members issued a subpoena to compel the EPA to produce the data, which the agency successfully resisted.

The House also passed several bills to ban the practice of “secret science,” but the measures never made it out of the Senate. The latest version is known as the HONEST Act.

Smith, who is chairman of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee and a lead sponsor of that bill, attended and spoke at the EPA event.

The Texas Republican described Pruitt as a “courageous head of the EPA” during his remarks, and credited the administrator for moving forward with the proposed rule change.

“Surely, we can all agree on two things,” Smith said. “First, we need clean air and water. And second, the EPA’s regulations should be supported by legitimate and publicly available scientific data.”

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