The Trump administration’s EPA broke the law when it finalized a “science transparency” rule and made it effective immediately, a federal court ruled Wednesday in a decision that could help the Biden administration scrap the rule.
The U.S. District Court for the District of Montana said the Environmental Protection Agency failed to justify its decision to make the controversial rule take effect right after its publication in the Federal Register, instead of after 30 days, as is typical.
“EPA failed to show a need for urgent implementation when it took more than two-and-one-half years to finalize this regulation,” Chief Judge Brian Morris wrote.
The final rule is ineffective until 30 days after its Jan. 6 publication date, Morris concluded. That means it’s set to take effect Feb. 5, which could give the Biden administration a chance to sideline the regulation.
“The Trump administration broke the law by issuing a harmful rule to censor life-saving medical science, and broke the law again by trying to make the rule immediately effective,” Environmental Defense Fund senior attorney Ben Levitan said in a statement.
EDF noted that the ruling also allows groups “to petition the Biden EPA to stay the rule during the rest of the litigation.”
The Strengthening Transparency in Regulatory Science (RIN:2080-AA14) rule limits the EPA’s ability to write regulations that are unpinned by scientific research that can’t be reproduced or is based on underlying data that isn’t public.
The EPA under President Donald Trump framed the rule as a bid to increase transparency, but environmentalists and congressional Democrats argued it was a thinly-veiled attempt to block the agency from writing tough new rules.
The rule marked a distinct departure from longstanding practice. The EPA has historically relied on studies built on data that can’t legally or ethically be made public.
The case is Envt’l Defense Fund v. EPA, D. Mont., No. 4:21-cv-00003, 1/27/21.