On Transparency and the EPA: Being Right

Paul Smyth, Maroon-News Staff

The Environmental Protection Agency proposed a new regulation that would limit the scientific studies that the agency could consider when developing new environmental and public health policies. Essentially, despite stating their desire to be more transparent in future environmental legislation, the EPA is seeking to restrict the amount of studies available for consideration in policy-making. Due to these new regulations, because all data that the agency uses to make air and water regulations would now need to be made publically available, data from participants deemed confidential could no longer be considered because HIPPA privacy rights would not allow it. Undoubtedly, EPA administrators and Republican lawmakers supporting the regulation will face contestation in courts across the United States from public health officials who deem the policies unconstitutional.

It is no secret that the EPA, lead by head administrator Scott Pruitt, has faced a tremendous level of scrutiny during the beginning of the Trump presidency. This new regulation, which is supposedly designed to increase transparency between the agency and constituents, will also be contested by many. Not only do legal officials believe that the regulation violates the Administrative Procedure Act which defines the rules for lawmaking, but alignment with Alt-Right climate deniers is concerning for more moderate conservatives.

Supporters of the proposed regulations cite the assurances by the agency that future policies will be based on reputable science that can be independently verified from scientists, public health officials and corporations alike as a positive step. However, those on the left claim that the new regulations further support an Alt-Right view of climate change denial which has plagued this new administration in its first year of operation during the Trump area.

Even as a conservative, I cannot argue against this latter claim. I have doubts that the EPA is being transparent themselves as they issue these new regulations. Despite its stated goal to “strengthen the transparency and validity of E.P.A. regulatory science,” I believe the agency is more interested with reducing any financial burden that the past federal regulations demanded. For starters, the agency needs to be more honest about its goals.

Moving forward, not only do I fear that this legislation will not see enactment because of the length judicial blockage that will undoubtedly arise, but I am concerned that Pruitt and the EPA are aligning with the wrong members of Congress. Backing legislation proposed by climate change deniers is incredibly harmful to encouraging future joint legislation as attracting liberal counterparts to support these bills is nearly impossible. 

This begs a larger discussion regarding the EPA’s support of any legislation proposed by a climate change denier, no matter if they are Republican or Democrat. Supported by nearly 97 percent of actively publishing climate scientists, climate change is happening and must be supported by lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. Amongst conservatives, there is clearly a growing acceptance of climate change. Constituent data amongst Republicans supports this growing trend towards acceptance. During the 2016 election, a 15 percent increase in climate change supporters appeared among Republican voters. Therefore, our federal institutions must capitalize on this trend and support regulations and individuals who also support more moderate ideologies which promote joint legislating.

For President Trump, pushing away moderate conservatives because of questions arising from the EPA is not a recipe for success. If Trump wants to take his re-election bid in 2020 seriously, he must continue to rack up small victories. The changes to regulation that border on illegality, support climate change deniers and are blatantly ignorant to federal rulemaking procedures are incredibly dangerous to Pruitt’s image, even in the eyes of conservative supporters. Moving forward, it is important that Trump and Pruitt figure out their agenda and realize that the constant ignorance towards environmental protection is starting to be recognized by even their most fervent Republican supporters.

Contact Paul Smyth at [email protected]