Court rules against fast-track of Trump EPA’s ‘secret science’ rule

February 6, 2021

A federal judge in Montana late January 27th 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 according to a January 28th report from The Hill.

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 jeopardizes it, as it would now be subject to a new White House memo that freezes pending regulations for 60 days.

Under the memo, President Biden’s administration can take action against rules if it determines that they raise “substantial questions of fact, law, or policy.”

The Trump administration billed the rule in question as a transparency measure, with former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt saying it would combat “secret science.”

Critics argued that it could undermine the use of important public health studies that have legitimate reasons, such as privacy, to hide underlying data.

The rule didn’t eliminate the use of studies with private data, but gave preference to those that made their data public, which critics argued could tip the scales in favor of industry.

In his ruling, Morris argued that that rule was substantive, rather than procedural as the agency contended, because it “determines outcomes rather than process.”

“The Final Rule’s status becomes particularly clear when one examines what it is missing—any kind of procedure. EPA itself noted in its rulemaking that it would have to issue future guidance on how the rule operates procedurally,” he wrote.

He added that the agency lacked “good cause” to exempt the rule from the 30-day delay before it takes effect. “EPA failed to show a need for urgent implementation when it took more than two-and one-half years to finalize this regulation,” Morris wrote.

What this means to you
On January 27th a Montana federal judge ruled against the Trump administration’s attempt to fast-track a controversial rule about how the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) considers scientific evidence. Judge Brian Morris ordered that the rule can’t go into effect until Feb. 5. Delaying the rule jeopardizes it, as it is now subject to a new White House memo that freezes pending regulations for 60 days.

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