Opinion Pieces

The Hill -- Reversing the Trump administration's numerous harmful efforts to censor science

Reversing the Trump administration's numerous harmful efforts to censor science

Originally published in The Hill By Reps. Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR.), Paul Tonko (D-NY), and Don Beyer (D-VA.)

As lawmakers and leaders on the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee, we rely on the scientific community to inform everything we do, from confronting public health threats caused by the pandemic to tackling the growing climate crisis.

For the past four years, our work and the work of countless federal scientists has been undermined by repeated attacks from the Trump administration. As President Biden and Vice President Harris begin their work to build our nation back better, we have a clear mandate and opportunity to listen to our constituents who are calling for us to work together to restore the role of trusted science in public policy.

Let’s be very clear. There is nothing “secret” about using the best available science when making policy decisions. Yet in the waning days of the Trump administration, its politicized EPA finalized their “Censored Science” rule. This was the latest in a series of efforts to undermine and disrespect the scientific community by limiting the scope of research that the EPA could consider in making decisions. It was a push to restrict the use of common public health data that has long showed negative health effects from rising pollution in our air, water, and environment.

The American people and Congress have entrusted the EPA with a vital mission: to protect public health and the environment. This mission requires strong, credible science that is free from undue interference, bias, or ideology.

By placing politically motivated restrictions on science in making decisions that affect the health of our communities and planet, the Trump administration clearly intended to undercut landmark environmental laws like the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act. Their efforts could endanger the lives and livelihood of every person in this country, and if brought into full effect would significantly and disproportionately harm Black, Indigenous, and communities of color who are still fighting for the promise of clean air and safe water to be fulfilled.

The “Censored Science” rule originated in the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology years ago, and we stood with countless respected scientists and public health experts to oppose it then. In the years since, opposition to this rule from across the scientific community and throughout Congress has been overwhelming. The Trump administration’s own Science Advisory Board even expressed concerns about the rule; the administration ignored them and declined to respond to our calls for an independent review. Instead, they persisted with this attempt to circumvent the legislative process through a flawed and politically-driven rule-making process.

With one of his first executive orders, President Biden recognized that this rule needs immediate and close scrutiny. We stand ready to work with the Biden-Harris administration to rebuild the standards of scientific integrity across America’s federal agencies and to defend our scientific community from political attacks.

Reversing the Trump administration’s misguided “Censored Science” rule, and their numerous other harmful efforts to censor science, must be a priority for all of us. The people and communities we represent need us to act. They expect that the best available science will inform our decisions. Let’s work together to make sure it does, and always will.