Richard Denison, Ph.D., is a Senior Scientist.
E&E News is reporting (subscription required) that House Energy & Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton has called on the White House to scrap the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) soon-to-be-issued enhancements to the only routine reporting system for chemicals across the entire federal government.
The final EPA rule would expand EPA’s Inventory Update Reporting (IUR), which requires periodic reporting of chemicals subject to the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). The rule was sent to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) on January 20 and is awaiting approval.
Chairman Upton’s move, in the form of a letter to OMB Director Jacob Lew cosigned by Environment and Economy Subcommittee Chairman John Shimkus, follows closely on the chemical industry’s loud complaints about the rule late last month at the GlobalChem conference, cosponsored by the American Chemistry Council (ACC) and the Society of Chemical Manufacturers and Affiliates (SOCMA). What gives?
Industry’s main complaint about the IUR enhancements is that they would apply to reporting that is to happen later this year (the first reporting since 2006), and that it’s unfair because the rule has yet to be finalized. That gripe conveniently ignores the fact that a key reason for the delay in issuing the rule has been industry opposition. One example: Industry groups have met no fewer than five times with OMB staff on the draft final rule just since it was sent over in late January. The rule would have been even later had EPA granted industry’s demand for an extension of the comment period – the length of which was already sufficient for a group of 33 health and environmental advocates, with no access to hired law firms, to manage to prepare 40 pages of comments, the most extensive EPA received from anyone on the proposed rule.
The timing of the Chairmen’s letter begs some other questions:
What if any role did the industry play in the Chairmen’s decision to send the letter?
And how does ACC reconcile its increasingly strident opposition to an enhanced chemical use reporting system – which at least indirectly precipitated today’s letter – with its rhetoric that EPA can and should be doing more using its existing TSCA authority, let alone with its vaunted Principles for TSCA Modernization that:
- call for all decisions on chemicals to be based on risk, which in turn demands good information on chemical uses and exposures?
- state that industry should have the responsibility for providing sufficient information for EPA to make timely decisions about safety?
- would subject all chemicals to prioritization based, among other things, on the volume of a chemical in commerce and its uses – both of which are types of information for which huge gaps exist due to deficiencies in the current IUR that would be addressed under the enhanced IUR rule?
- acknowledge EPA needs greater authorities to collect and share chemical safety information, which are precisely what the enhanced IUR would provide?
Can anyone give me one good reason why we should any longer take ACC’s principles for TSCA reform as anything other than empty words?