Scott Pruitt, the head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, wants to grant himself the power to censor science.
By forcing the EPA to use only scientific studies with publicly available raw data, he is severely limiting the research that his agency can draw from to make its policy decisions. The move would allow him to conveniently sideline the research that helped create health standards issued under our country’s bedrock environmental laws, such as the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act, and the Toxic Substances Control Act.
Many of the studies Pruitt is calling into question contain patient data and clinical reports that cannot be released publicly due to personal privacy laws. Curiously though, the rule wouldn’t hold industry-funded research to the same standard, so companies could continue to keep their “confidential business information” private. The proposal even grants Pruitt (who is not a scientist) personal veto power over which studies make the cut—something that will no doubt come in handy when dishing out favors to his buddies in polluting industries.
If finalized, policymakers would not be able to cite important public health studies—research like the landmark 1993 study that links air pollution to heart problems, lung cancer, and early death, or a recent study linking prenatal exposure to the pesticide chlorpyrifos with impaired brain development in children. Not incidentally, the coal and agrochemical industries would benefit from pushing such research under the rug.
Pruitt’s “Censoring Science Rule” is just the latest step in Pruitt’s war against science, which has included replacing the EPA’s scientific advisory boards with industry insiders and climate deniers, deleting references to climate change from the agency’s website, silencing longtime staffers about the health effects of pollution, and publicly doubting humanity’s role in climate change.
Scientists, lawmakers, and the public are not too happy about this latest anti-science move.
Rhode Island’s Senator Sheldon Whitehouse called out Pruitt’s smoke-and-mirrors game on Twitter, as did Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey.
The only thing “secret” about it is that it reviews people’s medical records, which are protected by privacy. To call that “secret science” is another polluter hoax. Great for polluters if researchers can’t review medical histories and see who got sick! https://t.co/qGNoascAbt— Sheldon Whitehouse (@SenWhitehouse) April 28, 2018
Scott Pruitt wants to restrict EPA scientists from using the full universe of scientific data. He calls it "ending secret science.” I call it censoring science.— Ed Markey (@SenMarkey) April 25, 2018
But no matter what science Pruitt tries to deny, the truth is clear: #ClimateChange is real, and it is happening now. pic.twitter.com/p6WD7FcwGT
Others rightfully pointed out that patient confidentiality doesn’t equal “secrecy.”
When health research includes medical data, patient confidentiality laws mean certain info cannot be released publicly. In Scott Pruitt’s alternate reality, this is “secret science” & must be suppressed. Harmful - and hugely condescending towards the American ppl https://t.co/HyFw0QEz0O— Samantha Power (@SamanthaJPower) April 24, 2018
And nearly 1,000 scientists sent a letter to Pruitt directly, urging him to rethink his policy.
A letter from hundreds of well-trained scientists who asked the EPA administrator to not use policy to demonize and exclude high-quality scientific research.https://t.co/7L8Y7pqGmU— altEPA (@altUSEPA) May 9, 2018
The bottom line: Only industry stands to win from Pruitt’s proposal. Ignoring peer-reviewed science certainly won’t keep Americans safer, which is supposed to be the EPA’s mission. Don’t believe Pruitt’s propaganda: His push for “transparency” is anything but.
The current administration’s suppression of data and information is unprecedented. But so are NRDC’s efforts to combat it.
On the first anniversary of the agency’s removal of climate change info from its website, a look back at one of the earth’s roughest years on record and the fight to set things right.
Muzzling scientists, scrubbing websites, attacking journalists: all in a shameful day’s work for our bought-and-paid-for EPA administrator. It’s time to stop him.
To what lengths will Scott Pruitt go to undo the good work being done by his agency’s scientists, researchers, and staff?