Category: U.S. EPA

War on science persists within Biden EPA as staffers allege chemical reports altered

Read the full story at Common Dreams.

Four scientists at the Environmental Protection Agency are alleging that the “war on science” is continuing under the Biden administration, with managers at the agency altering reports about the risks posed by chemicals and retaliating against employees who report the misconduct.

The government watchdog Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) filed a formal complaint Friday on behalf of the scientists with the EPA’s Office of the Inspector General, calling for an investigation into reports that high-level employees routinely delete crucial information from chemical risk assessments or change the documents’ conclusions to give the impression that the chemicals in question are not toxic.

EPA to reinstate air pollution panel disbanded under Trump

Read the full story at The Hill.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will reinstate a scientific group that looks at air pollution and was disbanded under the Trump administration, a spokesperson confirmed to The Hill on Monday,

EPA spokesperson Tim Carroll said in an email that the EPA’s Science Advisory Board will issue a call “in the next few weeks” for nominations for the Particulate Matter Review Panel.

Then-EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler disbanded the panel, made up of scientists who are considered experts on particulate matter, in 2018. 

EPA managers intruded on Dicamba decision making

Read the full story at Successful Farming.

The Trump administration announced a new five-year EPA approval of Dicamba with additional safeguards a week before the 2020 presidential election.

Yvette T. Collazo steps down as director of EPA’s Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics

Read the full story in the National Law Review.

Effective May 21, 2021, Yvette T. Collazo has resigned as the Director of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics (OPPT). Collazo began as OPPT Director in March 2020.

EPA eyes reversal of Trump revocation of California vehicle emissions waiver

Read the full story at The Hill.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is reconsidering the Trump administration’s decision to not allow California to set its own vehicle tailpipe emissions standards, the first step in reversing the major climate rollback.  

The EPA on Monday posted a notice seeking public input on whether it was appropriate under certain laws to withdraw a waiver that allowed the state to set its own standards. 

EPA Delayed Risk Communication and Issued Instructions Hindering Region 5’s Ability to Address Ethylene Oxide Emissions

Download the document and read the Chicago Tribune story.

Industry-connected political appointees in the Trump administration blocked the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency from investigating ethylene oxide polluters and prevented career staff from warning thousands of Americans who live near sources of the cancer-causing gas, according to a scathing new report from the agency’s inspector general.

Chicago Tribune, Apr 16, 2021

Concerns About the Process Used for the SAFE Vehicles Rule Demonstrate the Need for a Policy on EPA’s Role in Joint Rulemakings

Download the document.

Although the EPA and NHTSA jointly issued the SAFE Vehicles Rule, the agencies’ technical personnel did not collaborate during final rule development, undercutting the joint character of the rulemaking. Furthermore, the EPA did not follow its established process for developing regulatory actions, did not complete major Action Development Process milestones, or did not document who decided to skip these milestones and why. In addition, NHTSA performed all major technical assessments for the rule, while the role of EPA technical personnel was limited to providing advisory input to NHTSA for some aspects of the analysis. The EPA did not conduct a separate analysis related to executive orders on the impacts of modified standards on vulnerable populations.

Former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt decided that the SAFE Vehicles Rule would be based solely on NHTSA modeling and analysis and that NHTSA would draft the majority of the preamble text. One senior EPA official cited NHTSA’s statutory deadline for establishing its standards as the impetus for its lead role in developing the rulemaking. This approach bypassed aspects of the EPA’s normal rulemaking process. It also diverged from the more collaborative precedent set by the agencies’ prior joint rulemakings, as well as circumvented Office of Air and Radiation technical personnel feedback prior to the final rule being circulated for interagency review. Furthermore, technical personnel were confused about the proper contents of the docket, and congressional and tribal stakeholders raised transparency concerns after the final rule was published. While joint rulemaking is infrequent, the process should be improved by clearly defining the EPA’s responsibilities when working with a partner agency.

EPA dismisses dozens of key science advisers picked under Trump

Read the full story in the Washington Post.

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael Regan will purge more than 40 outside experts appointed by President Donald Trump from two key advisory panels, a move he says will help restore the role of science at the agency and reduce the heavy influence of industry over environmental regulations.

The unusual decision, announced Wednesday, will sweep away outside researchers picked under the previous administration whose expert advice helped the agency craft regulations related to air pollution, fracking and other issues.

Critics say that under Trump, membership of the two panels — the EPA’s Science Advisory Board (SAB) and Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASAC) — tilted too heavily toward regulated industries and their positions sometimes contradicted scientific consensus.

The Biden administration said the move is one of several to reestablish scientific integrity across the federal government after what it characterizes as a concerted effort under the previous president to sideline or interfere with research on climate change, the novel coronavirus and other issues.

How scientists scrambled to stop Donald Trump’s EPA from wiping out climate data

Read the full story at The Verge.

After hearing the news that then President-elect Donald Trump had appointed a notorious climate change denier to lead the Environmental Protection Agency transition team in 2016, Nicholas Shapiro, an environmental anthropologist, penned an urgent email to a dozen or so fellow scientists…

He was worried that the EPA was about to be torn apart from the inside under Trump’s leadership. Others on the email thread were concerned that vital environmental data would be taken down from federal websites and destroyed. They’d just seen brutal attacks on science in Canada — irreplaceable scientific records were dumped in the trash under conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper — and they feared that something similar could happen in the US. So Shapiro took a cue from his sister, an organizer for the Women’s March, and tried to bring researchers together to mount an offensive.

“Does anyone know of any social scientists inside the EPA that might be able to document its dismantling?” Shapiro, now an assistant professor at UCLA, wrote at the top of his note. “It seems like it could be a humble contribution of our craft — just one stopgap idea that came to mind.”

The effort sparked by the email eventually snowballed into a movement to rescue key environmental datasets and information about climate change from government websites. Shapiro and his colleagues succeeded in connecting with scientists within the EPA to document the agency’s transformation into an antagonist to environmental efforts in the US. And in some cases, the scientists were even able to mitigate the damage.

The scrappy cadre of scientists, academics, and other supporters is now a largely volunteer-based group called the Environmental Data and Governance Initiative (EDGI). Their work is far from over, despite Trump leaving office, as they work to make sure another president can’t drastically remake federal websites or destroy data in the future.

EPA nominee Regan highlights plastics, PFAS challenges in confirmation hearing

Read the full story in Waste Dive.

Michael Regan, the nominee for U.S. EPA administrator, acknowledged plastic pollution as a “significant” challenge in response to a question during Wednesday’s Senate confirmation. If confirmed, he agreed to take a further look at proposals and programs aimed at reducing single-use plastic.

Regan, currently the secretary for the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), also vowed to address issues related to per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), which he described as a “top priority” for the Biden administration. He promised to evaluate strategies for regulating the chemicals, but stopped short of confirming that EPA would set specific limits under the Safe Drinking Water Act.

Known for his work on environmental justice initiatives, Regan also said he plans to direct more resources to efforts protecting marginalized communities affected by climate change and pollution.

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