“Special counsel John Durham’s report into the Trump-Russia investigators should be submitted in a way that allows it to be released to the public when completed, the Justice Department said.”
“The Trump administration pushed the boundaries of rules, guidelines, and norms in most areas of governance. Manipulating public information was a key tactic, which included dramatic and damaging changes to federal agency websites relating to environmental regulations. These changes led the Environmental Data and Governance Initiative (EDGI) to identify acute gaps in federal website governance and develop recommendations for reforms under the Biden administration and beyond. Websites are the primary means by which federal environmental agencies communicate with the public and serve as resources paid for by American tax dollars to benefit the public. Changes to language, content, or access to federal websites can directly affect public knowledge of and participation in environmental decision-making. While considerable guidance exists for the delivery of federal digital services, there is scant policy focused on the web content provided by federal agencies, and born-digital resources are by and large excluded from record-keeping laws. There are no repercussions, for example, for agencies stripping websites that contain inconvenient factual information for a given political agenda….”
“Today, the Environmental Data & Governance Initiative (EDGI) releases Access Denied: Federal Web Governance Under the Trump Administration. The report examines the Trump administration’s management of federal websites related to environmental regulation and makes recommendations for the Biden administration moving forward. Currently, there are few policies governing website content.
Access Denied highlights the need to address these policy gaps. It’s the most comprehensive report yet from EDGI’s website monitoring program, which has monitored federal environmental websites ever since Trump took office in January 2017, documenting more than 1,000 changes.
Websites are how federal agencies communicate with the public, and changes to them can impact public participation in environmental regulatory processes. The information that’s available—or unavailable—on federal websites matters for the health of democracy and the environment….”
“The Trump administration’s EPA broke the law when it finalized a “science transparency” rule and made it effective immediately, a federal court ruled Wednesday in a decision that could help the Biden administration scrap the rule.
The U.S. District Court for the District of Montana said the Environmental Protection Agency failed to justify its decision to make the controversial rule take effect right after its publication in the Federal Register, instead of after 30 days, as is typical….”
“A federal judge in Montana late Wednesday ruled against the Trump administration’s attempt to fast-track a controversial rule about how the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) considers scientific evidence, endangering its future under the Biden administration.
The Trump EPA had characterized the rule, which would restrict the use of studies that don’t make their underlying data publicly available, as procedural, allowing it to go into effect immediately.
Judge Brian Morris, an Obama appointee, disagreed, determining that the rule was substantive and ordering that it can’t go into effect until Feb. 5.
Delaying the rule could jeopardize it, as it would now be subject to a new White House memo that freezes pending regulations for 60 days….”
“America’s federal records-keeper is in the midst of a hefty, ongoing effort to preserve many terabytes of digital and social media records from former President Donald Trump, who was suspended from using multiple online platforms in his final days in office.
To do so, the National Archives and Records Administration is leveraging a technology-based solution called ArchiveSocial.
“NARA has begun the task of working with ArchiveSocial to export the records from their platform and ingest them into NARA’s Electronic Records Archive for preservation,” a statement National Archives Public and Media Communications shared with Nextgov this week said. “We will also prepare exports from ArchiveSocial for public access, and they will be posted on trumplibrary.gov as they are made available.”…”
“The Environmental Protection Agency has finalized a rule to limit what research it can use to craft public health protections, a move opponents argue is aimed at crippling the agency’s ability to more aggressively regulate the nation’s air and water.
The “Strengthening Transparency in Pivotal Science Underlying Significant Regulatory Actions and Influential Scientific Information” rule, which the administration began pursuing early in President Trump’s term, would require researchers to disclose the raw data involved in their public health studies before the agency could rely upon their conclusions. It will apply this new set of standards to “dose-response studies,” which evaluate how much a person’s exposure to a substance increases the risk of harm….”
“President Donald Trump’s administration yesterday finalized a controversial rule that would make it more difficult for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to use major health studies to guide pollution regulations. But the new rule—which has been fiercely opposed by the scientific community—could have a short life. The apparent victory by Democrats yesterday in two Senate races in Georgia is expected to give the party control of the U.S. Senate, and lawmakers could use a rarely invoked law to revoke the rule by a simple majority vote….”
“SUMMARY: This action establishes how the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will consider the availability of dose-response data underlying pivotal science used in its significant regulatory actions and influential scientific information. When promulgating significant regulatory actions or developing influential scientific information for which the conclusions are driven by the quantitative relationship between the amount of dose or exposure to a pollutant, contaminant, or substance and an effect, the EPA will give greater consideration to studies where the underlying dose-response data are available in a manner sufficient for independent validation. This action also requires the EPA to identify and make publicly available the science that serves as the basis for informing a significant regulatory action at the proposed or draft stage to the extent practicable; reinforces the applicability of peer review requirements for pivotal science; and provides criteria for the Administrator to exempt certain studies from the requirements of this rulemaking….”
“The EPA’s new rule, which will be formally published tomorrow, is an attempt to set additional standards for the evidence it considers when establishing new regulations for pollutants. In principle, the rule sounds great: it wants the data behind the scientific papers it uses to be made publicly available before it can be used to support regulatory decisions. In reality, the rule is problematic, because many of these studies rely on patient records that need to be kept confidential. In other cases, the organizations with the best information on some environmental hazards are the companies that produce or work with them, and they may not be interested in sharing proprietary data.
The practical result of this sort of change is that the EPA would be precluded from relying on scientific papers that contained the clearest indications of public harm. This would almost certainly lead to weaker rules or a decision not to regulate at all….”
“The White House appears to have concluded its review of an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rule that’s expected to limit the types of scientific research the agency can consider in its rulemaking process.
The website for the White House’s Office of Management and Budget lists the rule’s review as concluded this week.
The rule, which the agency has billed as a transparency measure, is expected to limit the EPA’s ability to consider studies that don’t make their underlying data public.
Critics argue that this could cause the agency to exclude important research like landmark public health studies that can’t release participants’ information.
EPA spokesperson James Hewitt, however, declined to say whether the rule had been finalized and signed by Administrator Andrew Wheeler, saying “we have nothing to announce at this time” in an email to The Hill.
“The American public deserve transparency and access to data that determine regulatory decisions and in a way that protects the privacy of individuals and other confidential information,” Hewitt added. …”
“As President Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency rushes to complete its regulatory rollbacks, agency staff, emboldened by the Biden victory, moves to stand in the way….
Thomas Sinks directed the E.P.A.’s science advisory office and later managed the agency’s rules and data around research that involved people. Before his retirement in September, he decided to issue a blistering official opinion that the pending rule — which would require the agency to ignore or downgrade any medical research that does not expose its raw data — will compromise American public health….”
“The Silencing Science Tracker is a joint initiative of the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law and the Climate Science Legal Defense Fund. It tracks government attempts to restrict or prohibit scientific research, education or discussion, or the publication or use of scientific information, since the November 2016 election. Read more about the tracker and related resources….”
“Since the novel coronavirus struck, scientific research has been shared, and built upon, at an unprecedented pace. An open and deeply collaborative academic enterprise has emerged, with scientists from around the world sharing data and working together to map the SARS-CoV-2 genome and develop the first vaccines.
During normal times — when we’re not in a pandemic — much of the taxpayer-funded research that universities conduct is locked away by publishers, out of reach for all but those who can afford costly subscriptions. This year, given the dire need to fight a deadly disease, publishers temporarily lifted the paywalls that normally shut out this important knowledge from public view….
The COVID-19 crisis inspired a global collaboration that has led to a scientific renaissance — and we must not revert to our old ways. Imagine the progress that could be made if the international research community worked together to develop treatments for cancer, heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Climate change, educational equity and racial justice could all be studied through a more expansive and inclusive lens.
Years from now, we will look back at this pandemic as a historic time of incredible challenges, disruption and anguish. But I hope we will also remember it as an inflection point — the end of restricting knowledge to a privileged few and the dawn of a new era in scientific progress.”