New York Times Melts Down Over EPA’s Secret Science Ban

The New York Times is spittin’ mad at Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt. In just the past week, the paper has attacked Pruitt four times—from the front-page to the editorial page—following his announcement that the agency would not longer be permitted to rely on so-called “secret science” as a basis for taking regulatory action. And at no point in this onslaught has the Times allowed the truth to get in the way of its narrative.

Since 1994, the EPA and university researchers it funds have been hiding scientific data from Congress and the public. The agency has used the data and studies in question since 1997 as the basis for issuing unnecessary and draconian air-quality regulations. During the Obama years, EPA relied on these studies to issue regulations that wiped out 94 percent of the market value of the U.S. coal industry. The largest companies were forced into bankruptcy, eliminating thousands of miner jobs, and wreaking havoc on communities that depended on those jobs.

In 1994, an EPA external science advisory board known as the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee asked EPA for its air pollution data, but the agency ignored the request. In 1997, Congress requested the same data and was refused. In 1998, Congress passed a law requiring that scientific data used by the agency must be made available to the public. But a federal appellate court held the law unenforceable.

In 2011, Congress again began politely asking the EPA for its data. No luck. So in 2013, Congress issued its first subpoena in 30 years to force EPA to produce the data. Again, no luck. The House then began passing bills—three of them in successive sessions of Congress—to bar EPA from relying on secret data to issue regulations. But all three got stuck in the Senate, including the current bill known as the HONEST Act. (The secret science saga is told in full in my book, Scare Pollution: Why and How to Fix the EPA and summarized in my March 27 Wall Street Journal op-ed).

Since Congress can’t or won’t act, Pruitt has taken the initiative and recently announced that the agency will no longer rely on studies with secret data.

Although the new policy officially has not been released, Pruitt stated his intent in an interview with the Daily Caller. This set off the Times into a frenzy of dishonest reporting and editorializing.

A March 27 front-page screed labeled the ban on secret data as an “attack on science.” Although I have led the charge against EPA’s secret science for the past 20 years and spoken at length with two Times’ reporters for the article, none of my comments made it into print. Nor did the Times include any comments from the key researchers who are hiding their data.

Instead, the Times quoted people with little to no familiarity with the issue, the most appalling of which was an official from the American Association for the Advancement of Science who told the Times that banning secret science “is not about science” but rather just an an attack on regulation. (My line-by-line commentary on the New York Times article is here.)

On the same day as the front-page article, the Times ran an op-ed from Gina McCarthy, the Obama EPA chief who in 2011 told Congress she would produce the data. She never did. Not only was McCarthy’s op-ed full of the usual false claims about the secret science controversy, but she failed to disclose her post-EPA affiliation with Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health—one of the taxpayer-funded universities involved in hiding the controversial air quality data. (My line-by-line commentary on McCarthy’s op-ed is here.)

March 30 saw the publication of dutifully hysterical letters to the editor raving that “the discrediting of science is a shocking new piece of American life” and that Pruitt was “rolling back science-based safeguards.”

Finally, on March 31, the Times published a wild editorial accusing Pruitt of “muzzling scientific inquiry” and being “determined to destroy” EPA all in the hope of someday becoming president. (My line-by-line commentary on that editorial is here.)

All this raving aside, Pruitt is taking steps to end what I believe is the largest and most devastating case of scientific fraud ever. Moreover, EPA has spent about $600 million to prop up the claims made by the original (taxpayer-funded) secret science studies. If all this is on the up-and-up, as the New York Times and McCarthy claim. I’ll eat my words. But let’s see the data first.

Photo credit:  Pete Marovich/Getty Images

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