NACAA Comments on EPA’s Science Transparency Proposal

July 26, 2018 - NACAA submitted written comments on EPA’s proposed rule, “Strengthening Transparency in Regulatory Science,” which was published in the Federal Register on April 30, 2018 (83 Fed. Reg. 18,768).  The proposed rule would require the data and models underlying scientific studies on which EPA bases key regulatory actions to be made “publicly available in a manner sufficient for independent validation.”  It would also impose upon the agency requirements for the analysis of dose-response models used in scientific studies upon which it relies, and it would require EPA to conduct its own independent peer review of all “pivotal regulatory science” used to justify regulatory decisions.  In its comments, NACAA recommended that EPA withdraw the proposed rule based on concerns that it could, in its current form, hinder EPA’s use of relevant scientific studies in the development of air quality regulations and undermine public confidence in the agency’s scientific decision making.  While recognizing that the long-term trend toward increased transparency in science is commendable, NACAA expressed the view that transparency concerns should not override EPA’s obligation to consider the best-available science in the development of environmental regulations.  NACAA also expressed concern that the provision allowing the EPA Administrator to grant exemptions from the rule’s requirements, while providing no criteria for how the decision would be reached, could open the possibility of injecting a political element into what should be an objective, science-based assessment.  NACAA also noted EPA’s failure to explain how the “independent peer review” requirement would be implemented and to acknowledge its existing institutional mechanisms to vet scientific information, including the Science Advisory Board and the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee.  NACAA recommended that if EPA intends to update its approach to transparency and reproducibility, it should first consult with the National Academy of Sciences, its own scientific advisors, and with state and local agencies responsible for implementing the nation’s environmental laws.