Scott Pruitt’s ethical lapses that have triggered some 13 federal inquiries should not distract us from the profound damage he is trying to do to the privacy behind scientific studies that help the EPA secure the health and well-being of Americans. If successful, this will tie the agency’s hands when it comes to responding to dangerous pollution that harms, and even kills, Americans.
Imagine you are a participant in a medical research study—perhaps because you have been exposed to a harmful pollutant and you are seeking answers. Today, you would participate in such a study in full confidence that your private, personal information would not be released to the public, consistent with established, international scientific norms. From the inception of the EPA, scientific studies—where personal information is kept private—have been used to mitigate the health effects of air pollution, lead poisoning, polluted drinking water, and toxic pesticides and chemicals.
Pruitt wants to change that. At the request of former tobacco lobbyists and their polluting industry friends, Pruitt is attempting to disqualify those sorts of studies in a blatant attempt to narrow the number of studies that can be used to craft regulations. The proposed change is shrouded in the deceptively noble name of Strengthening Transparency in Regulatory Science rule.