Scott Pruitt's plan to keep science out of the Environmental Protection Agency

Pruitt may impose restrictions on the use of scientific data that would effectively make it impossible to use

By Matthew Rozsa

Staff Writer

Published March 16, 2018 12:57PM (EDT)

Scott Pruitt (AP/Carolyn Kaster)
Scott Pruitt (AP/Carolyn Kaster)

Scott Pruitt, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), is likely to propose measures that would restrict the use of science in shaping environmental policy.

A number of people who attended a closed-door meeting at the Heritage Foundation on Monday have described Pruitt as planning science reform at the EPA, according to E & E News, a policy publication. Although Pruitt did not offer specifics, experts believe he is likely to adopt a rule proposed by the anti-global warming chair of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee. Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, has long sought to stymie regulations that curb pollution and fight man-made climate change by imposing an unrealistic requirement on them — namely, that new rules only use scientific studies for which the data itself has been made public.

"A lot of the data that EPA uses to protect public health and ensure that we have clean air and clean water relies on data that cannot be publicly released," Yogin Kothari of the Union of Concerned Scientists told E & E.

He added, "If EPA doesn't have data to move forward with a public protection for a safeguard, it doesn't have to do that at all. It really hamstrings the ability of the EPA to do anything, to fulfill its mission."

Kothari's view was echoed by Betsy Southerland, a former senior EPA official who left the agency last summer out of disgust with Trump's policies.

"This is just done to paralyze rulemaking. It's another obstacle that would make it so hard and so difficult to go forward with rulemaking that in the end, the only thing that would happen — in the best case you would greatly delay rulemaking; in the worst case you would just prevent it. It would be such an obstacle you couldn't overcome it," Southerland told E & E News.

When Southerland left the EPA, she pointed to EPA policy changes that were detrimental, such as the EPA defunding environmental initiatives on the state and local level and requiring two existing environmental regulations to be repealed for every new one that is implemented.

By Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer at Salon. He received a Master's Degree in History from Rutgers-Newark in 2012 and was awarded a science journalism fellowship from the Metcalf Institute in 2022.

MORE FROM Matthew Rozsa

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Climate Change Donald Trump Epa Global Warming Scott Pruitt