Former President Donald Trump’s environmental agenda suffered two significant losses in court this week, as federal judges struck down rules that would have made regulating pollution more difficult.
On Wednesday, a federal judge blocked a rule passed in the final days of the Trump administration that would have limited the use of so-called “secret science,” a term used by conservatives to refer to data kept confidential due to patient privacy concerns, in the regulation of pollutants by the Environmental Protection Agency.
And on Friday, a panel of three judges in Washington, DC’s circuit court abolished rules that loosened the EPA’s implementation of ozone standards under the Clean Air Act, as the panel found that the Trump-era policy “contravene[s] the statute’s unambiguous language,” and “rests on an unreasonable interpretation of the statute.”
The first case hinged on the timing of the rule change — it was put in place on January 6 under former EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler, himself a former coal lobbyist. Wheeler argued that the rule would increase transparency by ensuring public health policy was grounded in data reviewable by all.
But critics of the rule said that it would limit the power of agencies like the EPA to protect public health, as much of the agency’s science relies on work that includes confidential patient data that cannot legally be made publicly available.
For example, a landmark Harvard study from 1993, which found direct links between exposure to pollutants and mortality rates, has for years formed the basis of the EPA’s regulation of fine particulate matter. But because that study used anonymized health data, the Trump rule would have barred it, and any similar studies, from being used to create regulations.
On Wednesday, US District Judge Brian Morris, an Obama appointee in Montana,
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