UW deans oppose EPA 'secret science' rule

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Two University of Washington deans and a prominent UW researcher are urging the US Environmental Protection Agency to withdraw a proposed rule that would limit scientific research the agency could use when evaluating threats to public health and the environment.

“The proposed rule would limit consideration of science in decision-making in a manner that is unjustified and arbitrary, and would lead to inadequate regulatory protections, inconsistent with federal law,” the scientists said. The letter was signed by Hilary Godwin, dean of the School of Public Health; Lisa Graumlich, Mary Laird Wood Professor and dean of the College of the Environment; and Professor Joel Kaufman of the Departments of Environmental & Occupational Health Sciences, Medicine, and Epidemiology.

The letter was addressed to Acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler, and submitted last week during the agency’s public comment period. The proposed rule, dubbed “Strengthening Transparency in Regulatory Science,” would require full access to original data before the EPA could consider using scientific studies in its regulatory decision-making. In a statement earlier this year, former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said the rule would end the era of “secret science” by only using studies that could be tested, authenticated and reproduced.

Scientists are broadly concerned that this rule paves the way for the agency to ignore major human health studies in order to roll back public health protections that limit pollution. Protecting the privacy and confidentiality of research participants is essential to research, and is a requirement in many studies, including many University of Washington studies funded by the National Institutes of Health.

In their letter to the EPA, Kaufman and Deans Godwin and Graumlich wrote: “We find that the proposed rule places substantial and unreasonable restrictions on what research the EPA can consider in its decision-making for regulating important environmental factors including air pollution, water pollution, toxic chemicals, and agents with climate impacts. This rule would negate the use, application, and impact of existing and future valid research and hence threaten public health.”

Read the letter.