Ax will soon fall on Trump transparency rule

By Kelsey Brugger | 05/21/2021 01:14 PM EDT

EPA headquarters in Washington.

EPA headquarters in Washington. Francis Chung/E&E News

The Biden administration is formally killing a Trump regulation that would have limited the science EPA could use to craft future environmental and public health protections.

A regulation to vacate what has long been referred to as the "secret science" rule cleared the White House regulatory review shop yesterday. EPA is expected to finalize the vacatur rule any day now, though the agency did not respond this morning to a request for comment on timing.

The action is a perfunctory step, as a federal judge earlier this year tossed the rule on the grounds that the Trump EPA failed to follow proper rulemaking protocols (Greenwire, Feb. 1).


But for critics, the impending final action illustrates the end of one of the Trump administration’s most controversial environmental efforts.

"The ‘censoring science’ rule was ill-advised and illegal," said Paul Billings, a vice president at the American Lung Association. "The EPA vacating this rule and putting an end to this effort to cherry-pick scientific studies and undermine the health benefits for curbing air pollution should be thrown on the scrap heap of terrible Trump-era regulations."

The rule — formally called "Strengthening Transparency in Pivotal Science Underlying Significant Regulatory Actions and Influential Scientific Information" — heeded longtime conservative calls to root out "secret science" from public health and environmental rulemakings.

The final version would have ordered EPA to downplay nonpublic scientific studies and prioritize research that discloses the health impact of a measured amount of a pollutant. It was a tactic, critics pointed out, used by the tobacco industry in the 1990s.