People hold signs as they listen to a group of scientists speak during a rally in conjunction with the American Geophysical Union's fall meeting in San Francisco, 13 December 2016. Photo: Marcio Jose Sanchez / AP

By Ed Yong
2 December 2016

(The Atlantic) – In September, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration banned 19 common chemicals from common antibacterial washes, because manufacturers hadn’t shown that they were safe in the long run, or any better than plain soap and water. In October, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) updated a rule forcing dozens of states to reduce levels of ozone and other air pollutants coming out of power plants—a move that would protect hundreds of millions of Americans from lung diseases.  In the same month, the EPA and the United National Highway Traffic Safety Administration enacted a rule that limits the carbon dioxide emissions from heavy-duty vehicles like trucks and tractors.

In a few months, these regulations could vanish, along with over 100 others designed to protect the health, safety, and welfare of Americans.

To an extent, regulations are necessary. Laws like the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Occupational Safety and Health Act, and many others have been instrumental in improving health, saving lives, and protecting the environment. These rules are multiplying. Their opponents argue that they limit businesses, stifle innovation, add red tape, and cost jobs. Their defenders say that they boost efficiency, create employment in new sectors, and are moral imperatives regardless of costs.

It is clear where president-elect Donald Trump stands. “The monstrosity that is the Federal Government with its pages and pages of rules and regulations has been a disaster for the American economy and job growth,” he said during his campaign. Come January, he will have the power to take on that perceived monster.

As has been widely reported, a Trump administration can easily repeal regulations that were enacted by federal agencies in the final months of the Obama administration. But with the help of a few key new bills that are currently making their way through Congress, he could also thwart the very infrastructure of science-based policy making, transforming it from a process that’s merely frustrating into one that’s also futile. […]

The cumulative effect of these acts would be to “gut the scientific foundation of many of our landmark health and public safety laws, like the Clean Air Act,” says Michael Halpern, deputy director of the Center for Science and Democracy. “They’re not going after the laws directly but going after how the government can use science to fulfill those laws.” [more]

How Trump Could Wage a War on Scientific Expertise

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