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Groups decry EPA rule that ‘blunts’ role of science at agency

Multiple associations representing scientists and universities are blasting a proposed rule that would prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from using scientific research in rulemaking if that research does not make its data available to the public.

“The Environmental Protection Agency has opened the door for a U.S. government agency to ignore scientific evidence in its decision-making, which we fear will endanger the health of millions of Americans,” AAAS CEO Sudip Parikh said in a statement.The American Association for the Advancement of Science and more than three dozen other organizations sent a letter to EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler on Monday voicing their opposition to the agency’s proposed “strengthening transparency in regulatory science” rule. The proposal would undermine the ability of scientific evidence to protect both people and the environment, the groups said.

Under the original proposed rule, the agency would have been prevented from using any study where the data used to draw its conclusions was not made available to the public. The change was sought by conservatives and business interests who argued it would bring transparency to the agency’s regulatory enforcement efforts. Critics, however, charged it was a move meant to neuter the agency, given that a large amount of public health research relies on confidential medical information.

The agency has since amended the proposal to establish guidelines for research to be used if certain conditions are met, but AAAS and the other signatories said the proposed changes are far from adequate.

“The EPA rule would introduce an untested system for analyzing data and allow the agency to ignore the best available science when se tting regulations,” Parikh said.

Signatories include the American Anthropological Association, American Chemical Society, American Geophysical Union, Association of American Universities, Entomological Society of America and Research!America.