SACRAMENTO – California Attorney General Xavier Becerra today joins a coalition of 18 attorneys general in challenging the Trump Administration’s final rule requiring the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to prioritize public disclosure over scientific integrity, and give less weight to or even ignore evidence from private health data about the harms of pollution. The EPA, like all agencies involved with public health research, regularly utilizes scientific studies that rely on confidential private health data, a common and accepted scientific practice that protects individuals’ sensitive and personal information. In today’s lawsuit, the coalition argues that the final rule will undercut the EPA’s ability to issue future regulations that protect public health and the environment and should be vacated.
“As the coronavirus pandemic continues to reach new heights, the Trump Administration has plowed ahead with a devastating policy that forces the EPA to downplay or ignore robust, independent scientific research in favor of industry-backed propaganda,” said Attorney General Becerra. “We won't let this one slide through the cracks. There's too much at stake. We're going to court today to uphold the rule of law and to protect the integrity of the science that informs our decision making."
“As Trump exits the White House, his Administration is promulgating flat-earth policies that undermine hundreds of years of scientific practice,” said Jared Blumenfeld, California’s Secretary for Environmental Protection. “Relying on superstition, conspiracy theories and hunches didn't work in the Dark Ages and certainly won't help us solve the myriad of challenges, from COVID-19 to climate change, facing our planet today. We need to invest in science as the backbone to protecting public health and the environment.”
The EPA regularly utilizes epidemiological studies that rely on private health data to support a variety of environmental and public health laws, including the Safe Drinking Water Act, Toxic Substances Control Act, and the Clean Air Act. The underlying data in these studies necessarily includes confidential medical and personally-identifying information that cannot be publicly disclosed under privacy laws and medical research ethics. Yet for years, chemical and fossil fuel industry lobbyists have fought to keep the EPA from considering the results of these studies, based on the pretense that the underlying data was not fully public.
Since first proposing the rule nearly three years ago, the EPA has received significant criticism from the scientific community — including from the EPA’s own Science Advisory Board and the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine — and from state attorneys general. In August 2018 and May 2020, Attorney General Becerra joined multi-state comment letters opposing the EPA's initial and supplemental proposals to effectively restrict the EPA’s access to critical scientific data.
Despite this, the EPA finalized the rule in the final days of the Trump Administration. In today’s lawsuit, the coalition argues that the final rule is unlawful and should be vacated because:
Attorney General Becerra, along with state partners, join the attorneys general of New York, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Washington, and Wisconsin, as well as King County and the cities of Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York in filing the lawsuit.
A copy of the lawsuit can be found here.