A truce in the war on science

Biden inherited a hollowed out EPA and new rules that will complicate his administration’s efforts to roll back the rollbacks. 

The EPA workforce has dropped by at least 1,200 workers since Trump’s early presidency. Panels of scientific experts were dismissed. The executive director of a program tasked with comprehensive climate assessments was replaced with a climate change denier. Trump even claimed “I don’t think science knows” about the reality of climate change. (Science does, and it’s real.)

Those are just a handful of the nearly 200 attacks on science that the Union of Concerned Scientists has tracked during the Trump administration. 

One that has scientists especially concerned is the so-called “science transparency rule.” The rule requires the EPA to weigh studies — related to, say, health effects of soot or pesticides — less heavily if the researchers cannot make the raw data available. 

The problem is that the raw data might include confidential personal or medical information about a study’s subjects. The effect, opponents say, is to hamstring the EPA by preventing it from using the best available science when crafting public health rules.

California and other states filed suit the day before Biden’s inauguration to challenge the rule. And at the beginning of February, a federal court killed the rule after Biden’s EPA requested that it be tossed out.

In general, Biden vows a renewed focus on science.