Embattled EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt proposed a new rule Tuesday that he said will make the Environmental Protection Agency more "transparent."
His announcement, however, was made only to invited guests.
The proposal would allow the agency to use only scientific studies where the underlying data is publicly available. Pruitt said the change would expand the ability of scientists and the public to "comment on the veracity, the authenticity" of data behind EPA decisions.
But environmental groups say the public disclosure requirement will limit the EPA's access to health studies, which are subject to patient confidentiality requirements. The plan would blacklist air quality studies that have linked pollution and health issues, for example, they argue.
"They are ordering EPA employees to put on blinders and only see the science that they want them to see," said Andrew Rosenberg of the Union of Concerned Scientists.
The EPA did not publicly announce the event, but posted on social media a video stream about 20 minutes before the event began. Pruitt has been under a growing cloud of ethics investigations, with questions about whether he can retain support from Congress and the White House.
The event did include an audience, which could be heard clapping after Pruitt spoke, and Sen. Mike Rounds and Rep. Lamar Smith, Republicans who spoke in favor of the proposal. Pruitt suggested the audience was supportive of the proposal, saying many attendees had done "advocacy and other things on Capitol Hill" in support of the rule. "I know many of you here have supported this for a number of years," he said.
Under the new approach, "the science that we use is going to be transparent, it's going to be reproducible, it's going to be able to be analyzed by those in the marketplace," Pruitt said. "Those that watch what we do can make informed decisions about whether we've drawn the proper conclusions or not."