EPA Science Board Criticizes Proposed Regulatory Rollbacks
EPA Science Board Criticizes Proposed Regulatory Rollbacks

EPA Science Board Criticizes Proposed Regulatory Rollbacks

Most of the panel’s members were appointed by the Trump administration.

Jan 3, 2020
Emily Makowski

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An Environmental Protection Agency advisory panel has criticized some of the Trump administration’s deregulatory efforts in a draft report released this week, according to E&E News (via Science). The 44 members of the Science Advisory Board, most of whom were appointed by the current administration, disparaged government efforts to change regulations regarding protected waterways, vehicle emissions, coal- and oil-fired power plants, and transparency in scientific studies.

The board criticized the proposed Waters of the US rule, which would limit the waterways protected by the Clean Water Act, saying that parts of it “are in conflict with established science” and decrease “protection of our nation’s waters,” reports E&E News. The White House is expected to finish reviewing the rule later this winter. The board also took aim at the proposed Strengthening Transparency in Regulatory Science rule, which states that the EPA could only use publicly available studies to develop regulations. The board noted that terms such as “raw data” were unclear, that old datasets may not be available, and that privacy laws could cause challenges. 

See “EPA Plans Modifications to Controversial Transparency Proposal

In addition, the advisory board raised concerns about a rollback of clean car standards that would lower fuel efficiency standards and revoke California’s Clean Air Act, which had allowed the state to use stricter emissions standards. Board members say that these changes could lead to more cars on the road and worse air pollution. The group also found that a proposed rule to no longer regulate mercury and other pollutants produced by coal- and oil-fired power plants was based on older standards from 2012 and did not take newer research on mercury’s health effects into account. The board thus recommended that the agency conducts a new risk assessment of these pollutants. 

“We are trying to give the EPA the best science it can in order to make decisions,” board leader and toxicologist Michael Honeycutt tells The New York Times. “We’re all scientists. I’ve never worked with a group of people more dedicated to trying to get the science right. We take this very seriously.” 

Emily Makowski is an intern at The Scientist. Email her at emakowski@the-scientist.com.