U.S. EPA Rolling Back Science-Based Regulation Under Cover of COVID

Contentious policy revisions at the Environmental Protection Agency roll back data-guided policies under the Trump administration.

May 4, 2020, 6:00 AM PDT

By Lee Flannery @leecflannery


Nuclear Power

LaineN / Shutterstock

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is moving forward with an agenda to rescind environmental regulations and annul a science-based approach to policy-making, reports Jeff Tollefson.

"In the past month alone, the agency has dialed down regulations on automobile emissions and fuel efficiency put in place under former president Barack Obama; it has weakened rules on mercury and other pollutants emitted by power plants; and it has shied away from strengthening standards to reduce fine-particle air pollution."

In March, President Trump completed a plan to reduce targets for automobile-emissions reductions from 5% per year to 1.5% per year. The EPA revised a method of cost-benefit analysis for regulation of power plant mercury emissions that no longer accounts for health benefits from a reduction in particulate matter. The agency also disregarded scientists' pleas to cut the maximum allowed average level of fine particulate matter, leaving it at the current standard. 

A draft proposal of revisions to a "transparency" rule states that "if underlying data and models are not publicly available — which is often the case for private health-care data — the EPA could give them less weight or exclude them from consideration entirely when setting standards and conducting scientific assessments."

According to previous EPA official Betsy Southerland, these unprecedented policy changes amount to an attempted confutation of scientific fact.

Thursday, May 28, 2020 in Nature

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