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EPA Proposal to Restrict Science Panders to Polluters

Politics
EPA scientists survey aquatic life in Newport, Oregon. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is proposing to significantly limit the use of science in agency rulemaking around public health, the The New York Times reports.


A draft of the proposed science transparency rule obtained by the Times instructs that scientists disclose all raw data involved in their studies before the agency would consider their conclusions. The new standards would also apply retroactively to existing regulations, and expands the original proposal to apply to all studies underpinning environmental protections. Many clean air, water and other public health rules are justified by studies using personal health data gathered under confidentiality agreements, so the datasets by law can never been made public. The proposal, which was originally conceived as a means to prevent regulations on second-hand smoking, "means the EPA can justify rolling back rules or failing to update rules based on the best information to protect public health and the environment, which means more dirty air and more premature deaths," Paul Billings of the American Lung Association told the Times.

As reported by The Hill:

Critics say that if implemented, the changes could be devastating to public heath.
"Let's call this what it is: an excuse to abandon clean air, clean water, and chemical safety rules. This new restriction on science would upend the way we protect communities from pollution and other health threats," said Andrew Rosenberg, director of the Center for Science and Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists.
"It doesn't just restrict the science that EPA can use to institute new rules — it works retroactively, allowing political appointees at the agency to topple standards that have worked for decades to deliver clean air and clean water."

For a deeper dive:

New York Times, The Hill

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"And when you combine that with protracted drought," he says, "it's just a stressor that makes everything worse."

Barrett says that with crops failing, many people have fled their homes.

"These folks are leaving not because they're opportunists," he says, "but because they are in survival mode. You have people that are legitimate refugees."

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"There are nonprofits that are operating in those countries that have great ideas in terms of teaching farmers to use the land better, to harvest water better, to use different variety of crops that are more resilient to drought conditions," he says. "Those are the kinds of programs I think are needed."

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Reporting credit: Deborah Jian Lee / ChavoBart Digital Media.

Reposted with permission from Yale Climate Connections.

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