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EPA Proposal Could Restrict The Science That Informs Public Health Laws

Smog settles over Salt Lake City, Utah, in November 2016.
Smog settles over Salt Lake City, Utah, in November 2016.

A new draft proposal by the Trump administration may throw both current and future clean air and water laws into question.

The New York Times unearthed the draft proposal.

It would require scientists to disclose their raw data before the Environmental Protection Agency considers using them to create new public health regulations.

The agency argues this will make the science behind important environmental rules more transparent. But that raw data can include things like patient names and medical records, which are confidential.

And unlike a similar proposal in 2018, this new draft is retroactive—meaning if an old clean air or water rule is backed by a study that doesn’t have raw data, it could potentially be thrown out. 

“Public health experts warned that studies that have been used for decades—to show, for example, that mercury from power plants impairs brain development, or that lead in paint dust is tied to behavioral disorders in children—might be inadmissible when existing regulations come up for renewal,” the Times’ Lisa Friedman reports.

Michael Halpern, deputy director of the Center for Science and Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists, says the draft proposal is one of the broadest attacks on science by the Trump administration yet.

“You put an impossible standard on previous research that essentially excludes it from consideration and makes it much easier for the EPA to justify decisions that don’t protect public health,” Halpern said.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUER in Salt Lake City, KUNR in Nevada, the O’Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, and KRCC and KUNC in Colorado.

Copyright 2021 KUER 90.1. To see more, visit KUER 90.1.

Nate is UM School of Journalism reporter. He reads the news on Montana Public Radio three nights a week.
Nate Hegyi
Nate Hegyi is the Utah reporter for the Mountain West News Bureau, based at KUER. He covers federal land management agencies, indigenous issues, and the environment. Before arriving in Salt Lake City, Nate worked at Yellowstone Public Radio, Montana Public Radio, and was an intern with NPR's Morning Edition. He received a master's in journalism from the University of Montana.
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