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Administrator Scott Pruitt signed a new proposed rule April 24, which EPA says will “ensure that the regulatory science underlying Agency actions is fully transparent, and that underlying scientific information is publicly available in a manner sufficient for independent validation.”

The proposal, Strengthening Transparency in Regulatory Science (83 FR 18768), was published in the April 30 Federal Register and, if promulgated as drafted, will require EPA to clearly identify all studies it relied upon when taking any “final agency action” on regulations, including dose-response data and models, and to make those studies available to the public to the extent feasible. Public comment is requested on a variety of issues, including whether EPA has appropriate statutory authority for the rulemaking, what stages of the rulemaking process this rule should apply to, if certain activities or categories should be excepted and the potential effects of the rulemaking on individual EPA programs.

Democratic Senators from the Environment and Public Works Committee had previously sent a letter to Administrator Pruitt asking for more details on the proposal after it was announced by an EPA news release on March 20. The Senators listed concerns on the legality of the proposal stating, “such a proposal would likely violate several laws that mandate the use of ‘best available science’, including the Toxic Substances Control Act and Safe Drinking Water Act because it would require EPA to ignore some of the ‘best’ scientific studies.” The letter went on to say that the new rule would likely be in conflict with the Administrative Procedure Act, which requires agencies to respond to all information presented to it in pursuant to a rulemaking.

Former EPA administrator Gina McCarthy has criticized the plan saying it would “paralyze” the agency and “undermine the nation’s scientific credibility.” McCarthy defended the use of non-public data due to many studies relying on medical records that are confidential by law. The former administrator further explained that the “secret science” claims are not true because the process of peer review “ensures that the analytic methodologies underlying the studies funded by the agency are sound.”

Originally, the comment period was scheduled to end May 30, 2018. However, on May 25 EPA published a notice (83 FR 24255) to extend the comment period to August 16. The agency also announced plans to hold a public hearing in Washington DC on July 17.