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Federal judge vacates Trump EPA lame-duck rule limiting scientific studies used in policymaking

One of the last things former President Donald Trump's Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) team did was finalize an administrative rule limiting which scientific research can be used to create public health policies. On Monday, a federal judge in Montana vacated the policy, enacted in early January, ruling that the EPA had improperly issued its rule under the Federal Housekeeping Statute, which applies only to procedural changes. The Biden administration had asked the judge, Brian Morris of the U.S. District Court in Great Falls, Montana, to scrap the ruling and send it back to the EPA for review.

Three environmental groups had sued the EPA over the rule, which would assign less weight to public health research that did not include raw data, sidelining studies that used personal medical data and other confidential information from human subjects. Trump's EPA officials argued that the rule would increase transparency and boost public confidence in the agency's environmental rule-making process. Critics said it was designed to reduce the influence of the best available science in crafting policy, limiting the government's ability to protect the public against pollution, harmful chemicals, and maybe even the coronavirus.

EPA spokeswoman Lindsay Hamilton said the Biden administration is "pleased" with Morris' ruling. "Monday's court decision, coming less than two weeks after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit struck down the 2019 rule that eased restrictions on power plants' carbon emissions, will make it easier for the new administration to unwind Trump-era environmental policies," The Washington Post notes.