Updated: 2:23 p.m. | Posted: 11:50 a.m.
The heads of two Minnesota state agencies have expressed fierce opposition to a proposal from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to restrict the type of scientific research it uses to set regulations.
In a strongly worded letter, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency Commissioner John Linc Stine and Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm criticized the proposed rule, which EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said is aimed at "strengthening transparency."
Stine and Malcolm urged Pruitt to withdraw the proposal, which they say is "dangerous" and will not provide transparency or clarity.
"Rather, it causes confusion and mistrust, and it will threaten the lives of real people," the letter stated.
The EPA's proposed rule would require it to use only scientific studies where the underlying data is publicly available when developing regulations.
When announcing the proposed rule last month, Pruitt said in a news release that "the era of secret science at EPA is coming to an end."
"The ability to test, authenticate, and reproduce scientific findings is vital for the integrity of rulemaking process," Pruitt stated. "Americans deserve to assess the legitimacy of the science underpinning EPA decisions that may impact their lives."
The EPA said the proposal is in line with the scientific community's move toward increased data sharing in response to a "replication crisis" — where a significant portion of scientific research may not be reproducible.
But Stine and Malcolm said the rule would undermine important epidemiological studies that use confidentiality agreements to protect patients' personal identifying information. Those studies are necessary for understanding the effects of a pollutant on human health, they said.
"It represents a dramatic change in practices of science that we have used for a long time to build our requirements for environmental and public health protection," Stine said in an interview.
Stine said public health data was used to study mercury exposure in newborns whose mothers who ate fish from the Great Lakes while they were pregnant.
Such data also was used to set health risk limits for perfluorinated chemicals produced by 3M found in drinking water in the east Twin Cities metro, Stine said.
The proposed rule would put regulators in an "impossible situation" of relying on animal studies that can't be extrapolated to humans, Stine and Malcolm wrote.
The EPA did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment on the letter. The rule says nothing compels the disclosure of any confidential or private information that violates legal and ethical protections.
A 30-day comment period on the proposed rule is underway.