Studies justifying Obama-era regulations come under intense scrutiny


The Obama administration may have used questionable scientific studies to justify environmental regulations. Under the Trump administration, those studies are being scrutinized, as new leadership at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has questioned multiple studies, and has been reversing or delaying some of the rules they were used to back.

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt issued a directive in October to ensure that people serving on EPA advisory committees are free from potential conflicts of interest. “Whatever science comes out of EPA, shouldn’t be political science,” Pruitt said in a statement. “From this day forward, EPA advisory committee members will be financially independent from the agency.”

While environmental groups denounced the decision, many studies aren’t holding up under scrutiny. According to Fox News:

In one case, agencies determined the research used to prop up a ban on a pesticide was questionable.

On another front, the [EPA] never complied with a congressional subpoena for the data used to justify most Obama administration air quality rules. 

“EPA regulations are based on secret data developed in the 1990s,” Steve Milloy, who served on President Trump’s EPA transition team, told Fox News. “For the EPA, coming up with cherry-picked data is standard operating procedure.”

Milloy, author of “Scare Pollution: Why and How to Fix the EPA,” … is among critics who accuse federal agencies of carefully selecting scientific research to fit a political agenda.

While critics say Pruitt is leading the offense on regulations that the EPA is there to protect, his office says many of those rules were flawed from the start.

Fox News lists the most controversial studies behind some regulations, a few of which are summarized here:

  • Pesticide Ban – The EPA reversed a 2015 ban on the insecticide chlorpyrifos, used for agriculture. The Obama EPA had justified the ban based on a study by the Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health -which gets EPA funding. The study linked chlorpyrifos to childhood developmental delays. Banned for home use since 2000, chlorpyrifos is used in over 100 countries for agricultural purposes. The EPA Scientific Advisory Panel said the Agency shouldn’t base a ban on the results from a single longitudinal study.
  • Harvard Study –  The Obama administration’s EPA used a 1993 Harvard Six Cities Study to justify air quality regulations, which affected the coal industry as well as the automobile industry, power plants and factories. When asked to produce data from the study in 2014, then-EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said the agency couldn’t produce it, claiming to lack ownership of the information. Hank Campbell, president of the American Council on Science and Health, said they could not verify the studies’ findings.
  • Global Warming Hiatus – A 2015 report by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration was released seemingly in line with the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan and the Paris Climate Conference. The team’s leader denied the paper was released for political reasons, but critics say it was, noting that between 1998 and 2013, there was a climate change “hiatus,” when the global temperature growth rate slowed. The Harvard study was issued to discredit the hiatus, and may have excluded certain data “to reach their preferred conclusion.”

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