The US EPA’s science advisers push back against Scott Pruitt’s attempts to dilute environmental regulation

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Published: June 2, 2018 4:30:59 AM

Climate-change sceptic US president Donald Trump and Scott Pruitt, his lieutenant at the Environmental Protection Agency—the country's green regulator—have made no bones about how they intend to drastically roll back green curbs.

Climate change, Donald Trump, Scott Pruitt, SAB, EPA, Clean Power PlanThe advisers have voted to review some of the controversial rules that the Pruitt administration has proposed in the past few months.

Climate-change sceptic US president Donald Trump and Scott Pruitt, his lieutenant at the Environmental Protection Agency—the country’s green regulator—have made no bones about how they intend to drastically roll back green curbs. Pruitt, in fact, is a votary of a much reduced role for the EPA. However, much like mayors of sanctuary cities, the EPA’s Science Advisory Board (SAB), has decided to fight back in the US’s larger interest. The advisers have voted to review some of the controversial rules that the Pruitt administration has proposed in the past few months. Among the key ones set for review are the plan to limit the type of research the EPA could use to back environmental regulations and the proposal to end limits on greenhouse-gas emissions. Pruitt had set the data rule, ostensibly with “transparency” as the guiding concern, that forbade EPA from using research that wasn’t publicly available for backing green curbs.

The SAB’s pushback comes after it chided the EPA earlier this month for not submitting the proposals for review. To be sure, the EPA is not legally required to give advance notice of any regulatory proposals to the SAB—though this has been the standard practice in previous presidencies. Neither is the EPA required to follow the SAB’s advice. But, non-adherence to the unstated policy means that the EPA’s case is that much weaker if it is challenged legally. Where Pruitt and co. lost the plot pushing the data rule is that most epidemiological studies rely on public health data that is legally mandated to be kept confidential.

Forbidding EPA from using such data means it can’t inform environmental regulation that need to be updated in the face of changing realities. The SAB is also challenging Pruitt’s control over EPA by calling into question the research behind his decision to repeal the Obama-era Clean Power Plan that capped emission from existing coal-based power plants. Given how Trump has already dealt global climate change mitigation efforts a severe setback by withdrawing the US from the Paris Agreement, the likes of SAB resisting Pruitt/Trump’s dilution of the world’s largest historical polluter’s environmental regulation is what is needed in larger doses.

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