Carper: EPA’s ‘Censoring Science’ Rule is the Trump Administration’s Last Gasp of Science Denial

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Tom Carper (D-Del.), top Democrat on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, released the following statement after the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized its rule to drastically undermine the use of science in agency decision-making.

“In the final days of the Trump Administration, EPA has finalized its rule that will suppress scientific research and censor scientists and experts. It’s just one last gasp of science denial. Amid an ongoing public health crisis – a time when accessing the latest scientific research and embracing scientific advancements is a critical function of protecting human health – the Trump EPA is trying to limit the use of scientific data, even data that could be used to address the growing link between exposure to air pollution and adverse outcomes of COVID-19. It’s as absurd as it sounds. As I said earlier this year, it’s hard to imagine a time when our nation needed to embrace science more than we do at this very moment. Almost a year into our battle against the coronavirus pandemic, that’s even truer today.

“While I continue to be amazed by this administration’s penchant for science denial, I am confident that this irresponsible rollback – finalized in the last few days of the Trump Administration – will not impede the incoming administration’s efforts to restore the use of science in rulemaking. President-elect Biden has made clear that his administration will be guided by science.”

In March, Senator Carper asked the EPA Inspector General (IG) to open an investigation into potentially unlawful efforts and procedural problems related to the preparation and review of this supplemental proposal. Later that month, Senator Carper asked EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler to withdraw the rule, describing how thesweeping policy would limit the use of science in EPA rulemaking. 

As Senator Carper described in his March 24 letter to Administrator Wheeler, examples abound of research that would now – at minimum – require considerable review time to determine whether or not they meet the requirements of the Secret Science Rule, or considerable review time to determine whether or not they would require an exemption from the rule’s applicability before being used for EPA decision-making purposes. Some examples include:

  • This March 2020 survey of existing research describes the interaction of several coronaviruses on surfaces with biocidal agents. EPA is responsible for recommending disinfectants for use against SARS-CoV-2 and other pathogens.
  • This November 2003 paper includes a statistical correlation between SARS fatalities in China and higher exposure to air pollution, information that could be relevant to EPA air officials as new criteria pollutant standards are developed.
  • This October 2015 paper describes the challenges associated with the sterilization and disposal of medical waste contaminated by Ebola. EPA worked jointly with CDC to develop disposal and sterilization guidelines and could be called on to do the same for COVID-19.