Our nation’s policies on air and water quality must protect the health and well being of the public and environment. In fact, the mission of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reads “to protect human health and the environment.” And it commits to ensuring that Americans have clean air, land and water by reducing environmental risks based on the best available scientific information. In essence, policy makers must rely on the best available science to set protective standards. Sadly, EPA administrator Scott Pruitt thinks he has a better idea – scrap the "best available" bit and only look at science that benefits polluters.
An Attack on Science, Veiled as "Transparency"
Pruitt’s new rule is being pitched to the public as strengthening transparency in regulatory science. On the surface, that doesn’t sound bad; on a closer look, the true motives become clear. Under this new rule, the EPA would only be allowed to consider scientific studies that make their data available to the public.
So what’s the catch? This requirement would remove most public health research from consideration when developing new policies. In the past, public health studies have shown that air pollution and heavy metals can harm people and even cause death. If Pruitt gets his way, studies like this would not be considered when environmental policies are developed. Who loses? We all do!
The last time you visited the doctor’s office, you probably signed a form regarding HIPPA, or the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. HIPPA protects your privacy to ensure that you’re never discriminated against based on your medical history (think not receiving a job because you have a health issue and the employer doesn’t want to pay). Patients who participate in public health studies are also covered under HIPPA. That means their data isn’t publicly available, as the EPA would require. Pruitt’s proposal would threaten everyone’s health and safety by not considering these public health studies when developing new policies.
While Data’s Important, It’s Not the Whole Story
The underlying data from a study is important, but it’s not the only factor that should be considered. Policy makers can also look at factors such as what the sample size of the study is, what methods were used in the study, and whether results have been repeated in other studies. All of these factors can help assess the validity of a scientific study. The heavy focus on transparent data really just appears to be this administration’s attempt to remove public health studies from consideration. Ultimately, we won’t benefit from these exclusions, but you can bet that companies polluting our air and water do!
Tell the EPA to Protect Your Health!
As part of considering this new rule, the EPA must solicit comments from the public. Now’s the time to tell the EPA that you want your health protected; you want research that relies on the best available scientific studies. [This comment period is no longer open.]
You can also listen to our latest podcast. We talk with Justin Hayes, our program director, about this administration’s rollback on environmental safeguards and the potential effects to Idahoans.