The EPA is about to commit regulatory suicide

The EPA is about to enact rules that would essentially hobble the agency's own ability to protect the environment. Rules were first proposed on April 30th, 2018, under now-resigned and disgraced Trump-appointed EPA head Scott Pruitt. The public comment portion of this situation is over tomorrow.

The wording of the proposition suggests that it will "strengthen the transparency of EPA regulatory science." Sounds pretty on-the-level so far, yes? Why wouldn't we want to have a government agency – or any agency, really – be more transparent? This proposition suggests that new rules would help make transparent the EPA's regulation development process.

The document then skews into broad wording meant to confuse the intent of the writer and the understanding of the reader. The document says "including regulations for which the public is likely to bear the cost of compliance."

This portion of the document is unnecessary for the proposition, and instead only serves as a call to those citizens who believe that environmental regulation means money out of their pocket. In reality, it means businesses won't be allowed to dump dangerous chemicals into the river, and instead will have to find a way to reduce the amount of dangerous chemicals they create.

Following rules and keeping our earth safe, and our human bodies safe, from dangerous chemicals isn't cheap. Working without regulations is cheap. Working without regulations also ignores scientific studies which show how pumping pollution into our air means human beings have shorter lifespans.

The regulation proposal can be found in its entirety over at GPO dot gov (PDF). The document is the Federal Register / Vol. 83, No. 83 / Monday, April 30, 2018 / Proposed Rules. You can also read summary of the proposal here:

"This document proposes a regulation intended to strengthen the transparency of EPA regulatory science. The proposed regulation provides that when EPA develops regulations, including regulations for which the public is likely to bear the cost of compliance, with regard to those scientific studies that are pivotal to the action being taken, EPA should ensure that the data underlying those are publicly available in a manner sufficient for independent validation. In this notice, EPA solicits comment on this proposal and how it can best be promulgated and implemented in light of existing law and prior Federal policies that already require increasing public access to data and influential scientific information used to inform federal regulation." – EPA Proposition

The proposal's full rule changes would allow the circumvention of Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) evaluations. This proposition includes a new system for chemical-risk assessments under TSCA (the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act) which has not been peer reviewed.

Nutshelled / As simple as possible

This proposition, which unlike current processes has not been peer-reviewed, suggests a process in which the EPA cannot consider any scientific data that's not been prepared in a brand new way. This brand new way is at odds with the way public scientific studies are published.

These new rules match up with one sort of study: That of industry-funded research. That's the sort of study that a business (say, for example, a coal mine) conducts on itself to say "yep! All of this coal is super clean!" That is, not peer-reviewed, and not put under the same scrutiny of that of a peer-reviewed scientific study.

But that's not very transparent at all

You're right! That's not very transparent at all – in fact, in the name of transparency, it would appear that the EPA is about to regulate itself into using mostly (or mainly) studies published on behalf of businesses. In the name of a tearing down of government regulation, the EPA's about to cut down their own ability to protect the environment.

That sounds familiar for some reason, doesn't it? It sounds a lot like that one time when the FCC did the same thing, except instead of stopping their ability to protect the environment, they stripped themselves of the power to protect consumers. And the same end product reigns supreme: Businesses put in charge of making sure they're keeping their customers and the environment safe. If you'd like to hear from a bunch of scientists about why this is a bad idea, head over to Scientific American right this minute.

What can I do?

I can head on over to the Regulations dot gov website and leave a comment. That link leads directly to the comment section for the Environmental Protection Agency's proposed rules for "Strengthening Transparency in Regulatory Science." I'll be heading down now to tell the EPA they should instead do their job and protect the environment with scientifically sound and peer-reviewed studies instead of cowing down to the industry that wishes to run wild and free.