EPA puts off final say on science transparency rule

October 17, 2018 GMT

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Environmental Protection Agency said Wednesday it is putting off for at least a year any final announcement on a controversial proposal overhauling how the agency evaluates science.

The agency’s so-called transparency in regulatory science rule was one of the most contentious proposed by former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, who stepped down last summer amid ethics scandals. Trump replaced Pruitt with current acting administrator Andrew Wheeler, who like Pruitt describes himself as a champion of rolling back what they see as unnecessary and burdensome regulations.

Supporters say the rule would help the public understand the science behind EPA regulations, by requiring scientists to disclose more details of the individual cases underlying public-health studies.

EPA public hearings on the proposal drew mainly throngs of critics— health officials, academics, researchers and others, who said the rule could force regulators to ignore the findings of major public-health studies, since much of the individual information on patients in those studies is confidential.

“The current political leadership still wants to move forward with Pruitt’s agenda to sideline science, just at a slower pace,” Yogin Kothari of the Union of Concerned Scientists nonprofit said Wednesday.

“It’s clear the agency’s political leadership still wants to ignore the best available science when it comes to protecting public health and the environment,” Kothari said.

Radiation experts with independent institutions, universities and environmental groups told The Associated Press earlier this month that a less-noticed part of the proposal could also move the agency from its longstanding no-tolerance position on harmful radiation and other health risks. The EPA said at the time that it did not expect the proposal to trigger any changes on regulating radiation.

Sen. Mike Rounds, a South Dakota Republican, boosted the proposal at a subcommittee hearing on it earlier this month.

“The EPA has a long history of creating burdensome, unnecessary regulations without giving the public an opportunity to fully vet the reasoning behind their decisions,” Rounds said then.

The EPA says it received almost 600,000 public comments on the proposal.