OMAHA (DTN) — The EPA has extended the public comment period on a proposal to require science that can be replicated in rulemaking, after a number of the more than 96,400 commenters online asked for an extension.
The deadline for comments currently is May 30, for the proposed rule, “Strengthening Transparency in Regulatory Science.” The rule proposes using just publicly available data. Critics of the measure are concerned that research involving intellectual property or with privacy concerns could be withheld from EPA rulemaking.
On Thursday, the agency announced an extension of the public comment period from May 30 to Aug. 17, set to be published in the Federal Register. The agency has scheduled a July 17 public hearing in Washington, D.C.
“EPA is committed to public participation and transparency in the rulemaking process,” EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said in a news release. “By extending the comment period for this rule and holding a public hearing, we are giving stakeholders the opportunity to provide valuable input about how EPA can improve the science underlying its rules.”
Pruitt drew the ire of environmental and science groups when he announced the rule on April 24. “The era of secret science at EPA is coming to an end,” he said in a news release at the time. “The ability to test, authenticate, and reproduce scientific findings is vital for the integrity of rulemaking process. Americans deserve to assess the legitimacy of the science underpinning EPA decisions that may impact their lives.”
In a May 1 letter to EPA, CropLife America, the lead lobbying organization for the pesticide industry, asked for an extension of the rule to mid-July because of its complexities. The change in science used by EPA “likely will have far-reaching implications for CLA members whose products are closely regulated as part of the EPA Office of Pesticide Programs pesticide registration and registration review processes,” CropLife America wrote. “The current timeframe is inadequate to provide detailed, thoughtful analysis of this proposed rule and its potential implications.”
CropLife America was joined by a number of groups and members of Congress in asking for an extension of the public comment period. That includes the Union of Concerned Scientists, Environmental Defense Fund, Southern Environmental Law Center, Chesapeake Bay Foundation and more than 80 members of Congress, among others.
“In its proposed rule, the agency solicits comments on a wide variety of complex scientific and technical issues that require careful and in-depth analysis by many public stakeholders,” the Union of Concerned Scientists said in an April 30 letter. “In addition, as EPA provided no analysis of the potential impacts of its proposal, the public will need to have additional time to consider what kinds of research could be excluded from the rulemaking process and what consequences this would have for public health and environmental protection.”
The group said previous administrations have allowed much longer comment periods on complex regulations.
When the Office of Management and Budget under President George W. Bush attempted to write guidance on risk assessment in 2006, “they invited comment for six months and asked for review of the proposal by the National Academy of Sciences,” the group said.
Even prior to the release of the proposal this spring, a group of about 1,000 scientists wrote the agency expressing opposition.
A group of 64 members of Congress asked for an extension in a May 3 letter to Pruitt.
“Regardless of viewpoint, there is agreement that the proposed rule would be a significant change in how the agency considers science in policymaking,” they wrote. “Organizations, scientists, industries, and members of the public deserve additional time to understand how this policy shift may impact them.”