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EPA Proposes New Science Transparency Regulation That Critics Call ‘Political’

Private medical records, along with confidential business information, lie at the heart of the controversy over a new science transparency regulation being proposed by EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt.

The nation’s top environmental regulator announced plans Tuesday to put new limits on the science behind pollution regulations.

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt announced said he’s ending the use of what he calls “secret science,” and he’s ordering that scientific studies publicly reveal their underlying data before they can be used in EPA’s decision-making.

“The science that we use is going to be transparent,” he said in a livestreamed announcement. “It’s going to be reproducible. It’s going to be able to be analyzed by those in the marketplace, and those that watch what we do can make informed decisions about whether we’ve drawn the proper conclusions or not.”

Critics say much scientific research data is sanitized before it’s published to protect private medical details and confidential business information. The studies face rigorous scrutiny during peer review.

Brian Moench, founder of the Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment, says the proposal is not about science but politics.

“Administrator Pruitt seems to be determined to do whatever he can to make out air pollution policies more to the liking of the polluting industries,” he said.

Moench said the proposal would undercut thousands of the studies that justify the laws responsible for reducing air pollution in Utah. His group will argue against the proposed regulation during an EPA public-comment period.

Utah’s U.S. Reps. Rob Bishop, Chris Stewart and Mia Love all voted for a congressional version of the science policy last year.

Judy Fahys has reported in Utah for two decades, covering politics, government and business before taking on environmental issues. She loves covering Utah, where petroleum-pipeline spills, the nation’s radioactive legacy and other types of pollution provide endless fodder for stories. Previously, she worked for the Salt Lake Tribune in Utah, and reported on the nation’s capital for States News Service and the Scripps League newspaper chain. She is a longtime member of the Society of Environmental Journalists and Investigative Reporters and Editors. She also spent an academic year as a research fellow in the Knight Science Journalism program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In her spare time, she enjoys being out in the environment, especially hiking, gardening and watercolor painting.
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