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  • Washington Highlights

    House Science Committee Holds Hearing on Science in EPA Rulemaking

    Christa Wagner, Manager, Government Relations
    Heather Pierce, Senior Director, Science Policy & Regulatory Counsel

    The House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology Nov. 13 held a hearing titled, “Strengthening Transparency or Silencing Science? The Future of Science in Environmental Protection Agency [EPA] Rulemaking.” The hearing came in advance of an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) supplemental proposed rule expected in early 2020.

    The hearing focused on a 2018 EPA proposed rule titled, “Strengthening Transparency in Regulatory Science,” which proposed limiting scientific evidence that EPA could consider in its rulemaking to research for which all underlying data are publicly available [see Washington Highlights, July 13, 2018]. Witnesses included career staff from the EPA and five representatives from the medical, public health, and research communities.

    Committee chair Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas) in her opening statement stated, “This rule makes dangerous, sweeping assertions about what does and does not count as good science. With the public availability of data as the determining factor, EPA will eliminate many foundational public health studies from consideration.” She encouraged EPA to heed the recommendations of the scientific community as it pursues next steps.

    Ranking Member Frank Lucas (R- Okla.) in his opening statement shared that “transparency and reproducibility are an important part of ensuring the quality of the science that supports federal regulation … [and that] the EPA’s proposed rule is well-intentioned, but there is still work to be done.” Rep. Lucas noted his support for EPA’s ongoing efforts to develop a supplemental rule to the original proposal. 

    During the first witness panel, Principal Deputy Assistant Administrator for Science from the EPA Office of Research and Development, Jennifer Orme-Zavaleta, PhD. testified that the original rule was proposed to “increase transparency and public access to scientific data.” She noted that nearly 600,000 public comments were received during the comment period, and that EPA on November 8 submitted a supplemental rule for review to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). She added that the press recently reported on an older version of the supplement, and the version that was submitted to OMB was “designed to provide clarifications on certain terms and aspects of the proposed rule,” and is expected to be released for public comment in early 2020.

    The second witness panel presented perspectives on the effect of the 2018 EPA proposed rule on human health if implemented and discussed open science and transparency initiatives designed to improve science. When asked explicitly, none of the witnesses on the second panel indicated support for the 2018 rule as written.

    The AAMC submitted joint comments to the 2018 proposed rule with the Association of American Universities (AAU), the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU), and the Council on Governmental Relations (COGR), expressing concern that the proposed rule “thwarts the promise of evidence-based policymaking.” The AAMC re-submitted those comments for the record during the Nov. 13 hearing and reiterated the call to EPA to “rescind the proposed rule and work with the scientific community on the development of an evidence-based policy that promotes the use of the best science in protecting human health.”