The US Trump administration has extended the comment period for a controversial proposal to restrict the data that the EPA can use to support future regulations. The public has an additional 60 days -- until August 16th -- to weigh in on the plan and the EPA says that it will also hold a day-long public hearing in Washington, DC on July 17th to receive stakeholder input.
The move to extend the comment period comes after a wave of criticism and requests by state attorneys general, Democratic lawmakers, academics, environmentalists and industry groups for more time to review and assess the draft rule.
The rule in question would restrict the EPA to only using data that were publicly available and could be independently reproduced. The rule would affect the dose response data and models that underlie what the Agency calls “pivotal regulatory science” – essentially the studies, models and analyses that “drive the magnitude of the benefit-cost calculation”, the level of a standard or the point of departure used to determine a reference value.
The science rule would apply to any "significant regulatory action" that had an annual economic cost of more than $100 million. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt says that the rule would improve transparency at the Agency and end "the era of secret science."
Critics say that the proposal would do little to improve transparency, but would instead restrict the EPA's use of science and its ability to fully consider the available scientific evidence of health effects and environmental harm. Studies that use private health data to evaluate hazards from chemicals and other pollutants could be discarded by the Agency -- making it harder to impose regulations to protect public health and the environment.
Although the rule could potentially impact regulations across the EPA, the primary target appears to be air rules, particularly regulations intended to curb power plant emissions and other sources of air pollution. But pesticide and chemical manufacturers are also worried that confidential data that they are required to provide the EPA could potentially be compromised by the rule.
Mr Pruitt initially gave the public only 30 days to submit comments on the rule, the shortest period allowed under federal law. “By extending the comment period for this rule and holding a public hearing, we are giving stakeholders the opportunity to provide valuable input about how EPA can improve the science underlying its rules,” Mr Pruitt said on May 23nd when moving the comment deadline.