Rule Review: With Senate win in Georgia, Democrats may be able to reverse recent de-fanging of EPA

January 8, 2021 0 By boss

The Trump regime has just finalised a rule that constrains the EPA on what science it can use to guide pollution regulations.

One of the big victories for science from the Senate win in Georgia for the Democratic Party is that this could help roll back many of the damaging changes that the Trump administration had brought to the framework within which the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) functions. The Trump regime has just finalised a rule that constrains the EPA on what science it can use to guide pollution regulations.

Experts had warned long ago that the rule would undermine the EPA’s capacity to perform meaningfully, by preventing EPA scientists and rulemakers from using studies in which underlying data are not available for outside screening as evidence while arguing for a particular line of action—what’s worse, there is a provision for exemption, but it rests entirely on the discretion of the EPA administrator, typically a political appointee. So, a climate-denier in the White House could effectively stall any stringent action on pollution citing the provision while allowing policies or action that effectively stalls pollution-action by using the exemption provision.

Writing in Science, Warren Cornwall, a Washington-based journalist, points out that the biggest concern is how this will constrain the use of epidemiological studies that rely on personal and medical data to explain the adverse effects of pollution on human health—such as the effect of pesticides or soot. Evidence from such studies are important for, among other things, setting pollution limits and deciding on bans. The new regulation would make it harder for researchers to enlist subjects for research since privacy concerns could keep people from participating. If Democrats, however, assume control of the Senate, then, invoking the Congressional Review Act, they can strike down the new rule, with a simple majority in Congress and Senate and presidential assent.

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