Scientific Transparency Rule Goes Down In Court
GREAT FALLS, MT.–A regulation put out by the Trump-era Environmental Protection Agency that purported to encourage scientific transparency in federal rulemaking was nullified by the U.S. District Court for the District of Montana in late January, only weeks after it took effect. The EPA under Biden responded to the decision by asking the court to vacate the rule, which it did on Feb. 1, indicates plaintiff The Environmental Defense Fund.
According to law firm Steptoe & Johnson, EPA released the final rule “Strengthening Transparency in Pivotal Science Underlying Significant Regulatory Actions and Influential Scientific Information,” on Jan. 6 to guide how the agency “will consider the availability of dose-response data underlying pivotal science used in its significant regulatory actions and influential scientific information.” The regulation, which sought to revise how EPA internally weighed scientific information when making rules, was proposed in 2018 and revised in 2020 and 2021 after receiving nearly 1 million public comments.
Besides addressing how EPA was to determine public availability and the importance of pivotal science and influential scientific information for significant regulatory actions, the firm says, the final rule would have established peer review requirements for pivotal science as well as well as criteria for the administrator to consider when granting case-by-case exemptions. Steptoe & Johnson notes the rule focused on “studies that describe the quantitative relationship between the dose or exposure of a pollutant, contaminant or substance and an effect,” making it narrower than earlier proposals.
EDF and other opponents objected that the regulation was rushed into place during the final days of the Trump administration. They also claimed the rule “would have undermined the agency’s ability to protect public health and the environment by fundamentally transforming the ways in which EPA may consider scientific evidence. It would have restricted EPA’s ability to use rigorous, peer-reviewed medical research for which underlying data are not publicly available–even when legal and ethical rules, like medical privacy laws, would have prohibited making that data public.”
EDF says it joined with the Montana Environmental Information Center, and Citizens for Clean Energy to sue EPA when the agency attempted to make the rule effective immediately upon its publication in the Federal Register rather than setting an effective date at least 30 days later, as required for substantive rules. According to EDF, the court issued an order implementing the legally mandated effective date for the regulation, and found fault with the rule’s legal basis.