We promise that this headline is not a joke. The leader of America’s largest environmental protection agency is expected to launch an initiative that reduces the agency’s reliance on data and scientific studies when drafting pollution rules.

Understandably, the scientific community is distraught, claiming this undermines the purpose of the EPA and will give a larger voice to those in our nation’s capital who deny climate change.

The initiative is expected to require EPA—when issuing rules—to rely only on scientific studies where the underlying data are made public. It’s an idea that House Science, Space and Technology Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) has been championing for years. He and others argue that EPA has been crafting regulations based on “secret science ” to advance its regulatory agenda.

“A lot of the data that EPA uses to protect public health and ensure that we have clean air and clean water relies on data that cannot be publicly released,” said Yogin Kothari with the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Many scientific studies rely on data that can’t be made public for reasons like patient privacy concerns or industry confidentiality.

“If EPA doesn’t have data to move forward with a public protection for a safeguard, it doesn’t have to do that at all,” said Kothari. “It really hamstrings the ability of the EPA to do anything, to fulfill its mission.”

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