On Monday, February 1, the U.S. District Court for the District of Montana vacated the Trump administration’s Strengthening Transparency in Pivotal Science Underlying Significant Regulatory Actions and Influential Scientific Information rule. Published on January 5 and effective immediately, the rule established procedures for how the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) would consider dose-response data underlying science used in its significant regulatory actions and influential scientific information. Opponents challenged the rule, arguing it would “cripple the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to protect public health and the environment by fundamentally transforming the ways in which the agency may consider and rely on scientific evidence.” The vacatur follows a January 27 order suspending the rule because the court found EPA failed to justify why it made the rule effective immediately and questioned “whether EPA retains any legal basis to promulgate the Final Rule.” Following the order, EPA moved to vacate the rule, arguing that the previous administration lacked authority to issue it.
EPA’s motion was not surprising, as the Biden administration seeks to put its own imprimatur on the integration of science in rules and policies. In a January 27 executive order, President Joe Biden re-established the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, which will advise the President “on matters involving scientific and technological information that is needed to inform public policy relating to the economy, worker empowerment, education, energy, the environment, public health, national and homeland security, racial equity, and other topics.” The same day, President Biden issued the “Memorandum on Restoring Trust in Government Through Scientific Integrity and Evidence-Based Policymaking,” which states the administration’s policy “to make evidence-based decisions guided by the best available science and data.”