States Take Aim at New EPA Limits on Scientific Evidence

MANHATTAN (CN) – Clashing with the Trump White House in one of his final acts in office, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman spoke out Monday against the Environmental Protection Agency’s plan to limit the role of science in crafting policy.

Joined by seven other attorneys general, Schneiderman penned the letter Monday in response to an April 30 proposal in which the EPA said it would rely only on studies with fully publicly available information to create policy. The restriction could nix studies that include private data, like personally identifying information of human subjects, a key aspect of environmental science.

In addition to questioning what it called a “truncated timeline,” Schneiderman and the other attorneys general said that the “vagueness of the proposal” has inspired concerns.

The letter — which is also signed by the attorneys general for California, Delaware, Iowa, Maine, Minnesota, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C. — asks that EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt consult with the National Academy of Sciences and other scientists before passing the rule.

Among other points, critics of the EPA’s proposal have emphasized that the scientific community already has measures in place when it comes to ethically sharing and publishing studies that contain sensitive material.

Pointing to Pruitt’s stance against the scientific consensus on climate change and his coziness with the fossil fuel industry, they have voiced concern that the EPA might use the rule to intentionally limit the data it uses to inform its policy.

Schneiderman noted Monday that Pruitt’s plan sparked objections from editors at the leading scientific journals Science, Nature and Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Rush Holt, the CEO of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, emphasized in his own statement meanwhile that Pruitt’s “attempt to reject valid scientific evidence fundamentally mischaracterizes the way science is conducted and made available for decision-making.”

“If put into practice, EPA could prohibit, or make it incredibly costly, for the agency to use a wide swath of high-quality scientific research,” Holt added.

The letter from Schneiderman on Monday came just hours before The New Yorker printed accusations of physical abuse that prompted the attorney general’s resignation.

Though Schneiderman insists that allegations describe “role-playing” during consensual sex acts, prosecutors in Manhattan confirmed Tuesday that Schneiderman is now under criminal investigation.

“This is a painful reminder that perpetrators of gender-based violence can be found in every movement, in every political party, in every industry, and includes those whose work or leadership we have previously admired,” Sunu Chandy, legal director at the National Women’s Law Center, said in an email Tuesday. “It’s difficult to reconcile these truths, but this moment had made clear that we must reckon with this reality.”

Lynn Hicks, a spokesman for the Iowa attorney general’s office, noted Tuesday that Schneiderman’s resignation will not change its position in the EPA challenge.

“Our involvement was based on the merits of the issue, not on the lead AG,” Hicks said in an email.

During his tenure, Schneiderman was a perennial thorn in Trump’s side, often leading the state-level resistance to the president’s policies. He wrangled other state attorneys general, filed lawsuits and wrote letters to protect Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival program, contraception coverage and the environment.

Barbara Underwood, the state solicitor general, will take over as acting New York attorney general. She pledged Tuesday to continue Schneiderman’s work “without interruption.”

Office press secretary Amy Spitalnick tweeted support for Underwood Tuesday.

“This morning, I’m grateful to work with the best colleagues in the business,” including Underwood, she wrote, adding that Underwood has argued 20 cases before the U.S. Supreme Court and once clerked for Justice Thurgood Marshall.

While Underwood could serve out the remainder of Schneiderman’s four-year term, set to expire in November, New York lawmakers can also appoint a replacement ahead of that election.

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