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Trump administration tries to deny the Environmental Protection Agency access to vital data

Editorial Staff

It's not a big-enough proportion: 14 of the USA's states Attorneys General are trying to obtain an order to prevent the implementation of a PoTUS Trump plan that they say will have a serious impact on the ability of the USA's Environmental Protection Agency or EPA to assess, amongst other things, the effects of climate change and the potential risks.

A proposed regulation by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that would restrict EPA’s access to critical scientific data. EPA regularly utilizes scientific studies that rely upon private health data, a common and accepted scientific practice that protects individuals’ sensitive and personal information. For years, climate change deniers and fossil fuel industry lobbyists have fought to ban EPA from considering science that employs this mainstream practice. The Trump Administration is now proposing to take up their cause. If implemented, this anti-science regulation would undercut the Agency’s ability to issue future regulations that protect public health and the environment."

So says California's Attorney General Xavier Becerra.

“This is nothing more than a veiled attack on our health and environment. By attempting to discredit decades of accepted science, the Trump Administration takes a page out of the anti-science lobby’s play-book,” *said Attorney General Becerra*. “If the Administration moves forward with its senseless and twisted proposal, California will take any action necessary to hold it accountable.”

But while Becarra and the group he has joined have much to commend it, they also make statements that don't stand up well.

"Private health data has been used as underlying support for a variety of public health laws, including the Safe Drinking Water Act, Toxic Substances Controls Act, and the Clean Air Act. If the proposed rule were to go into effect – which has been opposed by thousands of scientists, academics, and legislators – the EPA would be limited in the studies it could cite as evidence or refer to in its rulemaking process. The EPA's claim that science must always be "reproducible" is also deeply problematic. Although many important scientific studies are "reproducible," the studies that follow a major environmental disaster like an oil spill are often vital in crafting regulations to prevent future disasters. Those vital studies cannot be "reproduced" by scientists and would be excluded from consideration under the Proposed Rule."

The words in (our) bold demonstrate a willingness to promote form over substance. The fact is that the entire scientific community is built on peer-referenced material which, amongst other things, depends on the ability to reproduce what is presented as scientific fact. Indeed, many so-called discoveries, including some that have received peer group approval, have been debunked and dismissed when they could not be replicated. If all the EPA is saying is "prove it," that's a good thing. But equally, the EPA should not dismiss research because it has not been replicated: it should be part of, not judge over, the genuine scientific community (not social-media science) with a view to identifying and assessing risks and possible solutions. And it absolutely should not stand apart from science.

In submitting a letter to the EPA, Attorney General Becerra joins the Attorneys General of Connecticut, Delaware, Iowa, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Maine, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Washington, and the District of Columbia.

The full text of the letter is here: https://oag.ca.gov/system/file...

In the letter to the EPA, the Attorneys General write (edited for correct grammar and clarity) that the proposed rule breaches:

* The Administrative Procedure Act (APA). The proposed rule is inconsistent with the mainstream approach to scientific studies involving private health data and ignores the practical necessities of conducting such studies. The proposed rule's exclusion of essential scientific research is “arbitrary and capricious” and therefore breaches the APA. It also breaches the APA's requirement that an agency consider and respond to all information presented to it in a rulemaking proceeding.

* The Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) and the Safe Water Drinking Act (SWDA). Both the TSCA and SDWA require that when federal agencies act based on science, they must rely upon the best science available consistent with commonly-accepted scientific practices. The proposed rule would unquestionably exclude that "best science available" from many EPA rulemaking proceedings.

* The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The proposed rule breaches the NEPA because the EPA failed to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement as required by NEPA.

If one takes out the politicking, there is considerable reason to support the Attorneys General. And that begs the question - where are the other 35 odd and why are they not joining in?