This EPA proposal says it wants more scientific transparency—but it would really just hide how pollution makes us sick

Credit: Doral Chenoweth III/The Columbus Dispatch via AP

UPDATE: On January 5, 2021, with just 14 days left in office, the Trump administration issued its final rule, severely restricting the use of peer-reviewed science in setting pollution and toxic chemical limits.



The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is barreling forward with a proposal that would significantly limit the scientific research it consults while making the laws that protect us. Misleadingly dubbed Strengthening Transparency in Regulatory Science, the rule would force the EPA to use only studies with publicly available raw data. The more transparency, the better, right? Not so fast: Peer-reviewed studies (for instance, those that look into pollution’s impact on health) often cannot make the raw medical data underlying research public, in order to protect the privacy of their human subjects. In effect, the agency’s proposal would essentially ban huge swaths of peer-reviewed scientific research, such as those that have linked airborne particulate matter from burning coal to premature death. The EPA’s latest move is actually a radically expanded version of the old “secret science” proposal from disgraced EPA administrator Scott Pruitt. The new scheme effectively does the same thing, promising more transparency while obscuring how industrial pollution is harming us.

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