Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Media outraged over Pruitt's plans for EPA transparency

EPA Director Scott Pruitt

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt

President Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency administrator, Scott Pruitt, proposed a transparency rule Tuesday that would ban from agency use any studies that bar public access to the underlying data.

The proposal, subject to a 30-day comment period, promptly sent establishment media and the left into a tirade.

The Washington Post complained his proposal to use only studies that can be fully accessed by the public would “block the agency from relying on long-standing, landmark studies linking air pollution and pesticide exposure to harmful health effects.”

Forbes started with the headline “EPA Chief Scott Pruitt: Delete Decades of Science In the Name of ‘Transparency'” and went on from there.

The story quoted Andrew Rosenberg of the Center for Science and Democracy at UCS saying: “With false claims about transparency, the political appointees at the EPA are drastically restricting the ability of the agency to rely on science. They are ordering EPA employees to put on blinders and only see the science that they want them to see.

“They are sacrificing the health of Americans in favor of special interests, a disturbing pattern for this administration,” he continued, “It’s no coincidence that the same people calling for this change have been funded by the petrochemical and tobacco industries for years. Priott has turned his back on the American people to stick his snout deep in the trough of corruption.”

The rule proposed by Pruitt would simply set new standards for any scientific studies used for writing regulations and rules. It would allow the EPA to consider studies “for which the underlying data are made available publicly.”

The Heartland Institute, which promotes transparency in government, said the rule would require the “underlying data of scientific studies used to make federal environment and energy policy be open to public inspection and possible criticism.”

“Another week at the EPA, another victory for transparency by Scott Pruitt. For decades, the EPA has improperly claimed massive power to regulate nearly every aspect of our economy and lives. It is long overdue that the EPA should make such data and collection methods available for public review and analysis,” said Tim Huelskamp, the president of the institute.

Huelskamp represented Kansas’ first congressional district from 2011 to 2017.

The EPA in recent years has been aggressive in expanding its power, even changing rules and regulations to claim authority over mud puddles in farm fields across America. The Obama administration tried to use the agency to make it too expensive for coal power plants to operate and much more.

Freedom-oriented organizations who have been critical of Obama’s EPA are pleased that some of its aggressive tactics are being walked back.

Environmental activists, on the other hand, are enraged.

Reported Forbes: “Nearly 1,000 scientists signed and sent a letter to Scott Pruitt urging him not to move forward … they wrote, ‘There are ways to improve transparency in the decisionmaking process, but restricting the use of science would improve neither transparency nor the quality of EPA decisionmaking.'”

The report didn’t address the fact that any study scientists want the government to use could be opened to the public.

They claimed Pruitt’s move would “negatively impact EPA public protections that reduce levels of leads, harmful chemicals, and fine particle pollution.”

The Forbes report charged: “Ever wonder if that GMO vegetable in the grocery store is safe to eat, whether your city’s water contains poisonous lead like in Flint, Michigan, or if that nearby nuclear power plant is safe to live by? All of these health risks are regulated by the EPA, much of which relies on underlying students containing personal information.

“After throwing out any science that contains personal information, what is left to keep Scott Pruitt from allowing industries to deregulate their commitment to operate under safe practices?”

Forbes explained the data in some studies must remain secret because they were done with a promise to the participants to that effect.

Opponents of the new rule argue any “qualified scientist” can access the data, implying that the public has no need to see the foundation for EPA decisions.

Pruitt, in his announcement, said it was “a banner day.”

“The science that we use is going to be transparent. It’s going to be reproducible,” he said.

Liberals charged that Pruitt already has barred scientists who are getting paid by the EPA from serving on EPA advisory committees but is “still allowing those funded by industry.”

Former EPA administrator Gina Mc Carthy, who now is at the Center for Climate, Health and Global Environment at Harvard, said the best studies “follow individuals over time,” but nobody will participate if their “private information” is revealed.

Steve Milloy, a member of the Trump EPA transition team, said: “During the Obama administration, the EPA wantonly destroyed 94 percent of the market value of the coal industry, killed thousands of coal mining jobs and wreaked havoc on coal mining families and communities, all based on data the EPA and its taxpayer-funded university researchers have been hiding from the public and Congress for more than 20 years.”

Joseph Bast, senior fellow at Heartland, said Pruitt’s announcement “marks the beginning of the end of one of the biggest scandals in the history of public health research and of the Environmental Protection Agency.”

“Badly flawed research on the human health effects of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) conducted during the 1980s and 1990s was used to justify regulations forcing thousands of corporations and hundreds of coal-powered electricity generation plants to close,” he said.

“Subsequent research shows ambient levels of PM2.5 have little or no adverse effects on human health, yet the regulations remain in place, like zombies, killing jobs and endangering public health and well-being by unnecessarily raising the cost of energy and causing unemployment. The Obama administration exploited this corrupt science to wage its war on fossil fuels, a war now thankfully being brought to an end by President Trump.”

Bast said that demanding “the end of reliance on secret science may be the most consequential decision made by EPA since the election of Donald Trump.”

The Heartland’s science director, Jay Lehr, said, “It is amazing that the public ever allowed a government agency supported by their taxes to hide the information used to restrict their lives through regulation. It is only surprising that the leftist EPA and our court system allowed this to take place for so long. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt is finally reining in the out of control regulatory process.”

Bette Grande, the Institute’s energy policy research fellow, said the end of “secret science” at EPA “is very big news and you know it’s an important step by the volume and hysteria of Administrator Pruitt’s critics.”

“The critics of this move understand that the Endangerment Finding and other over-reaching regulations are based on black box ‘secret science’ that cannot stand up to prudent review,” she said.

“Requiring all underlying data to be made public before a study can be used to set policy is just common sense. My junior high algebra teacher made me show my work to get credit for a test answer. If it’s good enough for junior high, we should hold EPA to at least that level of transparency.”