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WaPo Breaks Push for Transparency to Criticize Potential EPA Move to Make Research Public

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has introduced a rule that would dramatically improve the transparency of the research the agency relies on to implement regulations. But since that transparency poses a threat, the mainstream media is unhappy.

At issue primarily is what is known as the Six Cities Study – 30-year-old research, which has never been made public but forms the basis for most of America’s air pollution regulations.

“In the annals of science there aren’t many reports that have as much impact as Harvard’s Six Cities Study of 1993,” Joel Achenbach of the Washington Post wrote in a story headlined, [1] “Scientists denounce Pruitt’s effort to block ‘secret science’ at EPA.”

The Six Cities Study showed “a dramatic association between long-term exposure to air pollution and higher risk of an early death. It influenced government pollution standards that research shows have saved thousands of lives.

“But the Six Cities Study, as well as many other scientific research papers, could be deemed unreliable and discarded by the Trump administration under a proposal announced Tuesday” by Pruitt.

“Such restrictions could affect how the agency protects Americans from toxic chemicals, air pollution and other health risks,” according to the Post’s original story on the rule proposal [2].

That story said Pruitt and his proponents “describe the new approach as an advance for transparency, one that will increase Americans’ trust and confidence in the research on which EPA’s decisions are based.”

But a “chorus of scientists and public health groups warn that the rule would effectively block the EPA from relying on longstanding landmark studies on the harmful effects of air pollution and pesticide exposure.”

Then it mentioned the fig leaf the EPA has used for years to kill similar efforts to make public the results of the Six Cities Study or the follow-up on American Cancer Society research – both of which the agency has refused for decades.

“Such research often involves confidential personal or medical histories or proprietary information,” the Post reported.

Pruitt said the agency has too long relied on “secret science [3]” to craft regulations.

Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) praised the move as a way of “putting a stop to hidden agendas.”

For all its purported benefits and importance to Americans’ health, the EPA steadfastly has refused to release the data.

In 1994, an EPA external science advisory board called the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee asked for the Six Cities data and was refused [4]. Congress asked in 1997 and was rebuffed [4]. The following year, it passed legislation calling for the EPA data to be made public, but an appellate court ruled that the law was not enforceable [4].

House members subpoenaed the data, but the agency resisted [4]. And senators extracted a promise from Gina McCarthy, Pruitt’s predecessor, to turn over the data in exchange for being approved. Once in office, she refused to follow through.

A review by the Health Effects Institute – funded by the EPA itself and “industry” – “broadly validated the quality of the research,” the Post said. The data was of “generally high quality,” although the scientists admitted the review “did extend and challenge our understanding of the original results in several important ways.”

Somewhat short a full endorsement, while the American economy has been drained of billions of dollars to comply with regulations based on what Pruitt called “secret science.”

And the media’s reaction to his calls to end that practice is to say transparency is a dangerous thing.