Pruitt’s Actions to Block Sound Science will Hurt American Families

On April 24, EPA Administrator Pruitt announced a new policy limiting the use of many scientific studies, but EPA has not released the text of the proposed rule.

Statement by Dr. Richard A. Denison, EDF Lead Senior Scientist:

“Scott Pruitt’s proposal to block the use of life-saving science is a gift to industry lobbyists — and it will cause real harm to American families. Pruitt is obstructing the agency’s ability to use highly reliable scientific information, including data used to determine whether chemicals and pollutants cause cancer, heart disease, and other health problems. This proposal would allow industry to pollute our environment without fear of accountability, because the politician leading EPA told scientists not to use the best science.

“Mr. Pruitt has repeatedly sided with lobbyists instead of putting the health of American families first. Under this proposal, studies which have led to limits on toxic pollutants would be rendered unusable. Next time a major scientific study warns of a danger to our children, EPA may well be unable to act.

“Mr. Pruitt’s proposal would add huge amounts of red tape to the process of scientific inquiry. It would mean, for example, that long term studies – say, following the health of the children of poor women living in heavily polluted communities over years or decades – could not be used in EPA decisions because it could not or should not be ‘reproduced.’ Much of the best health science research is done this way, and leads to life-saving protections.”

Examples of studies that could be excluded:

  • Monitoring studies and research followed the Deepwater Horizon BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico to understand its causes and impacts.  The only way to reproduce that work would be to stage another such oil spill, clearly nonsensical. Yet this directive would prevent EPA from using any of the scientific learnings gleaned from the spill in crafting regulations to prevent it from happening again or mitigate its effects.
  • Epidemiological studies or workplace health surveillance studies are not “reproducible”; they follow a cohort of people often over long periods of time, to study effects of exposure.

The proposal would also compel disclosure of literally all raw data in any study (including even things like the computer codes of each model used) for any study EPA relies on. That creates two major problems:

  • It could prevent EPA from using any study that is based on private information, such as medical records that must by law be kept confidential.
  • The costs to EPA of having to review each study it uses and determine whether underlying data can or cannot be released would be enormous, estimated by the Congressional Budget Office as running as high as the hundreds of millions of dollars annually. Without dedicated additional funding to EPA to cover such costs, the requirement would effectively preclude EPA from using thousands of studies.

By limiting what studies EPA can use to help keep us safe, this proposal 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.

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