Apr 30, 2018
EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has been under attack for his lavish personal use of taxpayer money. But he is also now proposing an important rule change in writing environmental regulations. The change would allow the use of only those studies where the underlying data is made available publicly.
Pruitt and corporate supporters of this proposed change say it will be an advance for “transparency.” But most scientists and public health groups warn that the rule will make it impossible to use the findings of important studies on the effects of air pollution and pesticide exposure, because such studies often involve the use of confidential personal or medical histories, or proprietary information.
For example, former EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy says that if the kind of disclosure of information that Pruitt wants now had been required in the past, it would have stopped the government from using an early study that linked leaded gasoline exposure to neurological damage, and another study that linked fine-particle air pollution to premature deaths.
“The best studies follow individuals over time...”, McCarthy said. “But it means following people’s personal history, their medical history. And nobody would want somebody to expose all their private information.” She predicts that researchers will have trouble recruiting people to participate in future studies if the rule change is enacted.
This proposed change is just the latest part of a much broader effort by Pruitt and his corporate supporters to shift how the EPA conducts and uses science to guide its work. The EPA has always been subject to pressure from corporations to do their bidding. But Pruitt clearly wants to turn the EPA into an open tool of industry – a tool for maximizing corporate profits at the expense of health, safety and the environment.