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EPA Releases Proposed Rule on the Type of Scientific Studies the Agency Can Use When Setting Pollution Limits

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The proposed rule requires the agency to rely heavily on studies that make their underlying data transparent and primarily public when setting pollution standards The proposed rule expands restrictions on scientific studies for rulemaking purposes, originally proposed by former Administrator Scott Pruitt The deadline to submit comments is April 17, 2020

On March 18, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) new proposed rule titled “Strengthening Transparency in Regulatory Science” was published in the Federal Register, kicking off a 30-day public comment period. The proposed rule requires the agency to rely heavily on studies that make their underlying data transparent and primarily public when setting pollution standards. The restrictions would apply to research the agency bases regulations on, along with "influential scientific information" the agency disseminates that could affect public policies or private-sector decisions.

Originally proposed by former Administrator Scott Pruitt in 2018, this revised rule comes after the EPA’s Science Advisory Broad criticized the original proposal, which they believe would effectively prevent the agency from using studies on the effects of pollution on human health. Participants in those studies often agree to be studied on the condition that their personal health information remains confidential, making the data unavailable to the public.

The updated proposal broadens the original rule and will allow EPA to conduct studies with non-public data for rulemakings if the authors allow for full access to the data for independent validation. Additionally, the rule would not outright bar studies without public data from consideration.

NACo believes national air and water quality standards should be set using well-founded, peer-reviewed scientific evidence. Public review of standards is essential and should include the range of health effects associated with the pollutant, the levels of pollution as they relate to the effects on health, the characteristics and number of people affected, and the compounded effects when multiple pollutants are present.

The deadline to submit public comments is April 17, 2020.

About Zach George (Full Bio)

Legislative Assistant

Zach George joined NACo in March 2016 and serves as a Legislative Assistant. He is responsible for writing and editing blog articles, conducting legislative research and providing legislative support for Environment, Energy and Land Use; Transportation; Telecommunications and Technology; and the Gulf Coast Counties and Parishes Coalition.

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