Friday, October 5, 2018

When EPA re-writes the rules, scientists are not required

Steven Mufson, Chris Mooney report for the Washington Post:
When former EPA administrator Scott Pruitt launched an effort to limit what kinds of scientific studies could be used to protect public health, he left out some key experts: the Environmental Protection Agency’s own Office of the Science Advisor, according to an email exchange obtained by The Washington Post.
Tom Sinks, director of the office, said in an April 24 email that “Even though OSA and I have not participated in the development of this document and I just this moment obtained it (have yet to read it), I am listed as the point of contact.”
Sinks added, accurately, that “the proposal likely touches upon three aspects of OSA work — public access to EPA funded research, human subjects research protection, and scientific integrity” — all of which fall in his area of responsibility.
The email was released in response to a Freedom of Information Act request by the Union of Concerned Scientists.
The proposed rule, dubbed “Strengthening Transparency in Regulatory Science,” has ranked as one of the conservatives’ top priorities for years. It would allow the EPA to consider only studies for which the underlying data is publicly available and can be reproduced by other researchers. Such restrictions could alter how the agency protects Americans from toxic chemicals, air pollution, radiation, and other health risks, adding to the agency’s broader deregulatory agenda.
“It’s astounding that the EPA science adviser’s office was left completely out of the loop during the development of a major science policy proposal,” said Michael Halpern, deputy director of the center for science and democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists. “Crafting any significant proposal behind closed doors without even bothering to notify career scientific staff suggests that it’s much more about politics than it is about science.”
In a statement, the agency countered that “EPA received input from a number of stakeholders and utilized the intra and interagency process to ensure a robust proposal was put forward.”

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