“Today, environmental and archivist groups including the Environmental Data & Governance Initiative, Sierra Club, Union of Concerned Scientists, and Free Government Information published an open letter asking the Environmental Protection Agency not to sunset its online archive, which the agency has indicated it will do in July 2022. The letter and the complete list of initial signatories can be found here. A companion letter from professional historians’ organizations, including the Environmental Historians Action Collaborative and American Society of Environmental Historians, can be found here.
The EPA’s online archive contains a public record of the agency’s positions and activities over the last 20-plus years. These resources convey information about critical environmental issues, and past and present agency activities, policies, and priorities and have facilitated public engagement and oversight of the agency. Maintaining—and improving—the archive supports the agency’s outspoken commitments to public trust, scientific integrity, and environmental justice. Retiring the archive undermines these commitments.
There are documents discoverable through the EPA’s archive that are not available anywhere else, including records of chemicals authorizations, policy decisions, and monitoring data from natural disasters. Only through the EPA archive is it possible to trace public-facing EPA climate change information over the course of the escalating crisis. The EPA’s archive served as a tool to counter some of the effects of the Trump administration’s censorship—especially of climate-related information. When the Trump administration deleted the majority of EPA’s climate change web resources, many of them became available (if challenging to access) through the archive.
In our digital age, agencies must make their documents accessible to the public. We need the EPA’s archive to be improved, not retired. Instead of doing away with the EPA archive, the Biden administration could promote it as a model for other parts of the Executive Branch….”
Abstract: Concerns about a crisis of mass irreplicability across scientific fields (“the replication crisis”) have stimulated a movement for open science, encouraging or even requiring researchers to publish their raw data and analysis code. Recently, a rule at the US Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) would have imposed a strong open data requirement. The rule prompted significant public discussion about whether open science practices are appropriate for fields of environmental public health. The aims of this paper are to assess (1) whether the replication crisis extends to fields of environmental public health; and (2) in general whether open science requirements can address the replication crisis. There is little empirical evidence for or against mass irreplicability in environmental public health specifically. Without such evidence, strong claims about whether the replication crisis extends to environmental public health — or not — seem premature. By distinguishing three concepts — reproducibility, replicability, and robustness — it is clear that open data initiatives can promote reproducibility and robustness but do little to promote replicability. I conclude by reviewing some of the other benefits of open science, and offer some suggestions for funding streams to mitigate the costs of adoption of open science practices in environmental public health.
“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….”
“Green groups on Monday filed a lawsuit in an attempt to prevent a new rule limiting the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) use of certain studies from taking effect.
The lawsuit takes aim at the EPA’s Strengthening Transparency in Regulatory Science rule, also known as the “secret science” rule, which restricts the use of studies that don’t make their underlying data public.
The agency has billed the rule as a transparency measure, though its opponents argue that it will prevent consideration of important public health studies that can’t publish their data for reasons such as privacy. …”
“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….”
“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….”
“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 Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) independent board of science advisers had harsh words for an agency plan to limit the types of studies it considers when crafting regulations, saying the EPA had failed to justify the need for the policy.
The policy was first proposed by former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt in 2018 to battle “secret science.” He argued that in order to increase transparency, the agency should limit consideration of studies that don’t share their underlying data….
The SAB’s review is consistent with longstanding criticism of the proposal, as science and medical groups have argued it will lead the EPA to ignore important public health research that must protect the privacy of human subjects….”