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Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler. Photo: Al Drago-Pool/Getty Images

The Environmental Protection Agency has finalized a rule that limits scientific research used in the crafting of public health and environmental policy.

Why it matters: Researchers argue the rule that prioritizes studies with all data available publicly "essentially blocks" research that uses personal information and confidential medical records that can't be released because of privacy conditions, per the New York Times, which first reported the news Monday.

  • A requirement to disclose raw data would have prevented past major studies from going ahead. "Such studies have served as the scientific underpinnings of some of the most important clean air and water regulations of the past half century," the Times notes.

Details: The EPA declined a request for comment, but referred Axios to an op-ed by Administrator Andrew Wheeler in the Wall Street Journal published Monday evening headlined, "Why We're Ending the EPA's Reliance on Secret Science." Wheeler is expected to officially announce the rule Tuesday.

  • In the op-ed, Wheeler insists the rule is "not a stick for forcing scientists to choose between respecting the privacy and rights of their study participants and submitting their work for consideration."
  • "Our rule will prioritize transparency and increase opportunities for the public to access the 'dose-response' data that underlie significant regulations and influential scientific information," Wheeler wrote of the measure, called the Strengthening Transparency in Pivotal Science Underlying Significant Regulatory Actions Rule.
  • "Dose-response data explain the relationship between the amount of a chemical or pollutant and its effect on human health and the environment—and are the foundation of the EPA’s regulations."
"If the American people are to be regulated by interpretation of these scientific studies, they deserve to scrutinize the data as part of the scientific process and American self-government."

What they're saying: Thomas Sinks, who previously led the Office of the Science Advisor at EPA and oversaw the agency's rules around research involving human subjects, told the Washington Post the rule is "based on a conspiracy theory, which is that EPA practices secret science" despite no evidence to support this.

  • "I'm mostly concerned about the fact this rule and other actions like this rule are diminishing the efforts and the importance of science and scientists within the federal government," he said. "That is a dangerous precedent."

Go deeper

Jan 28, 2021 - Technology

Exclusive: Snapchat launches new digital literacy program

Snapchat

Snapchat on Thursday unveiled a new digital literacy program aimed at educating its users about issues like data privacy and security.

Why it matters: Snapchat intends to help its young-skewing user base understand the risks associated with navigating an under-regulated web.

29 mins ago - Health

CDC prepares tougher testing rules for international travelers

Travelers with their luggage arrive at a COVID-19 testing location at the airport in Los Angeles, Calif., on Nov. 23, 2021. Photo: Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Tuesday night that it is working to impose stricter testing requirements for international travelers due to the spread of the new Omicron variant.

The big picture: The new rules would require all international travelers, regardless of vaccination status, to show a negative test taken a day before their flight to the U.S. Currently, the CDC says fully vaccinated travelers are allowed to show a test taken no more than three days before their departure, AP reports.

Republicans threaten to shut down government over vaccine mandates

Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) in the Capitol in November 2020. Photo: Joshua Roberts/Getty Images

Conservative Republicans in the House and Senate are planning to force a government shutdown Friday to deny funding needed to enforce the Biden administration's vaccine mandates on the private sector, according to Politico.

Why it matters: Congress has until the end of the week to pass a stopgap measure to extend funding into 2022, though objection from a small group of Republicans could shut down the government.