Yesterday we published an anonymous blog, Losing Our Voice, from an agency scientist who writes, “In the flurry of activity to respond to the pandemic, public health officials and scientists have lost our voices.” The writer observes that scientists have been slowly sidelined over the course of some 20 to 30 years, and that the federal response to the COVID-19 pandemic is largely lead by non-scientists in the federal Offices of Public Affairs with public health officials used as props.
Fortunately, in the face of calamity, many state and local leaders of both parties are now pushing back against this failed model of governance, and letting scientists, doctors, public health officials, and civil servants help shape the response to this pandemic, while casting aside those who attempt to use the crisis to hawk Trump’s political agenda.
We are glad to see this new narrative developing — one that recognizes the need for greater public trust in experts, especially scientists, doctors, public health officials, and civil servants. We will need to rely on these experts as we carefully maneuver our way through this pandemic and the devastating effects it will have on many communities throughout the world.
We’ll also be relying on these experts as we support the work of public employees, fight against environmental backsliding by the Trump administration, and make sure our friends, family, and communities are safe. In these difficult times, we are doubling down on our work — it has never been more important than now.
Be safe, stay in touch, and thank you for your support.
Yesterday, PEER Science Director Kyla Bennett provided testimony in opposition to a proposed rule that would enable the EPA to ignore certain health and peer reviewed studies when the underlying data is not fully public. The proposed rule is a sham put forth by industry and opposed by almost all major health and scientific organizations. Because the EPA refused to hold a hearing on the rule, Dr. Bennett testified at a public hearing hosted by the Union of Concerned Scientists.
PEER has helped reveal that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission is quietly moving to permanently deregulate massive amounts of radioactive waste, abrogating longstanding requirements that, with very limited exceptions, such waste must be disposed of in licensed radioactive waste sites meeting detailed safety standards and which are subject to NRC inspection and enforcement. Despite the magnitude of this change, the NRC claims it is merely an “interpretative rulemaking” that does not trigger review under the National Environmental Policy Act or formal rulemaking requirements of the Administrative Procedure Act. We will do everything we can to help make sure this “interpretive rulemaking” does not take effect.
PEER led the efforts of 18 civil society organizations in writing a letter to urge key Senators to hold the Trump Administration to its obligations to fill the key holes in the Federal government and seek Senate confirmation for agency leaders who require confirmation by law. The organizations point to leadership vacancies across numerous agencies as harming their basic functioning and describe the Administration’s fumbling response to the coronavirus pandemic as a symptom of this vacancies crisis that has built up over the past three years.