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Pruitt to Restrict Use of Scientific Data in EPA Policymaking
In the coming weeks, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt is expected to announce a proposal that would limit the type of scientific studies and data the agency can use in crafting public health and environmental regulations.
The planned policy shift, first reported by E&E News, would require the EPA to only use scientific findings whose data and methodologies are made public and can be replicated.
The idea has long been championed by House Science, Space and Technology Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas). The prominent climate change denier proposed a bill last year called the Honest and Open New EPA Science Treatment (HONEST) Act, formerly known as The Secret Science Reform Act, that prohibits any future regulations from taking effect unless the underlying scientific data is public.
Smith's legislation, which is widely criticized by scientific organizations, passed in the House last March but hasn't left the Senate Environment And Public Works Committee.
Pruitt indicated at a closed-door meeting at the conservative Heritage Foundation last week that he would adopt elements of Smith's stalled bill, E&E News reported.
Also, in a recent interview with The Daily Caller, the EPA boss said his latest proposal was a transparency measure against what he and his Republican colleagues consider "secret science."
"We need to make sure their data and methodology are published as part of the record," Pruitt told the conservative news site. "Otherwise, it's not transparent. It's not objectively measured, and that's important."
Last year, the EPA head controversially announced a policy that would limit the presence of researchers who have received EPA research grants on the agency's Scientific Advisory Board.
Those in opposition to Pruitt's latest policy move say it would undermine the essential mission of the EPA.
Andrew Rosenberg, director of the Center for Science and Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists, pointed out that the proposed changes would prohibit the use of personal health data such as private medial records, and confidential business information from even being considered in EPA policymaking.
"Companies could evade accountability for the pollution they create by declaring information about that pollution a 'trade secret,'" Rosenberg said.
"Fortunately, this nonsensical and dangerous proposal has never been able to make it out of Congress, but Pruitt seems intent on imposing it anyway."
Sierra Club Associate Director of Federal & Administrative Advocacy Matthew Gravatt said, "By limiting what studies can be used to help keep our air and water clean, our climate safe, and our homes free of toxic chemicals, Pruitt is trying to make it harder for the EPA to protect the health and safety of American families."
"By limiting what studies can be used to help keep us safe, this reported policy would make it harder for EPA to protect American families from pollution, toxic chemicals, and other threats. The result would be more serious health impacts—from asthma to cancer—for communities across the country," said EDF Senior Attorney Martha Roberts.
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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Tracy L. Barnett
Sources reviewed this article for accuracy.
For Sicangu Lakota water protector Cheryl Angel, Standing Rock helped her define what she stands against: an economy rooted in extraction of resources and exploitation of people and planet. It wasn't until she'd had some distance that the vision of what she stands for came into focus.
Last week, the Peruvian Palm Oil Producers' Association (JUNPALMA) promised to enter into an agreement for sustainable and deforestation-free palm oil production. The promise was secured by the U.S. based National Wildlife Federation (NWF) in collaboration with the local government, growers and the independent conservation organization Sociedad Peruana de Ecodesarrollo.
The rallying cry to build it again and to build it better than before is inspiring after a natural disaster, but it may not be the best course of action, according to new research published in the journal Science.
"Faced with global warming, rising sea levels, and the climate-related extremes they intensify, the question is no longer whether some communities will retreat—moving people and assets out of harm's way—but why, where, when, and how they will retreat," the study begins.
The researchers suggest that it is time to rethink retreat, which is often seen as a last resort and a sign of weakness. Instead, it should be seen as the smart option and an opportunity to build new communities.
"We propose a reconceptualization of retreat as a suite of adaptation options that are both strategic and managed," the paper states. "Strategy integrates retreat into long-term development goals and identifies why retreat should occur and, in doing so, influences where and when."
The billions of dollars spent to rebuild the Jersey Shore and to create dunes to protect from future storms after Superstorm Sandy in 2012 may be a waste if sea level rise inundates the entire coastline.
"There's a definite rhetoric of, 'We're going to build it back better. We're going to win. We're going to beat this. Something technological is going to come and it's going to save us,'" said A.R. Siders, an assistant professor with the disaster research center at the University of Delaware and lead author of the paper, to the New York Times. "It's like, let's step back and think for a minute. You're in a fight with the ocean. You're fighting to hold the ocean in place. Maybe that's not the battle we want to pick."
Rethinking retreat could make it a strategic, efficient, and equitable way to adapt to the climate crisis, the study says.
Dr. Siders pointed out that it has happened before. She noted that in the 1970s, the small town of Soldiers Grove, Wisconsin moved itself out of the flood plain after one too many floods. The community found and reoriented the business district to take advantage of highway traffic and powered it entirely with solar energy, as the New York Times reported.
That's an important lesson now that rising sea levels pose a catastrophic risk around the world. Nearly 75 percent of the world's cities are along shorelines. In the U.S. alone coastline communities make up nearly 40 percent of the population— more than 123 million people, which is why Siders and her research team are so forthright about the urgency and the complexities of their findings, according to Harvard Magazine.
Some of those complexities include, coordinating moves across city, state or even international lines; cultural and social considerations like the importance of burial grounds or ancestral lands; reparations for losses or damage to historic practices; long-term social and psychological consequences; financial incentives that often contradict environmental imperatives; and the critical importance of managing retreat in a way that protects vulnerable and poor populations and that doesn't exacerbate past injustices, as Harvard Magazine reported.
If communities could practice strategic retreats, the study says, doing so would not only reduce the need for people to choose among bad options, but also improve their circumstances.
"It's a lot to think about," said Siders to Harvard Magazine. "And there are going to be hard choices. It will hurt—I mean, we have to get from here to some new future state, and that transition is going to be hard.…But the longer we put off making these decisions, the worse it will get, and the harder the decisions will become."
To help the transition, the paper recommends improved access to climate-hazard maps so communities can make informed choices about risk. And, the maps need to be improved and updated regularly, the paper said as the New York Times reported.
"It's not that everywhere should retreat," said Dr. Siders to the New York Times. "It's that retreat should be an option. It should be a real viable option on the table that some places will need to use."
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