Our health protections at risk: TSCA reform undone by “regulatory reform”?

Lindsay McCormick is a Project Manager. Richard Denison, Ph.D.is a Lead Senior Scientist.

On February 24th, President Trump signed Executive Order 13777, calling on all government agencies to recommend regulations for “potential repeal, replacement, or modification.” As of this writing, EPA has received 46,050 comments on its regulatory reform process. Interestingly, the overwhelming majority of these comments come from individuals across the country voicing their support for strengthening EPA’s regulatory protections, demonstrating that Americans stand strong in their opposition to regulatory roadblocks and rollbacks.

In compliance with this executive order, EPA held a stakeholder meeting last week to identify “regulatory reform” opportunities under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).

The irony – and absurdity – of this process is that not even a year ago, Congress passed, with overwhelming bipartisan support, sweeping reforms to TSCA, finally providing EPA with new tools and authority to review and manage chemicals more effectively. The need for a credible regulatory agency—one able to make timely, independent, science-based decisions about chemical safety—was seen by all parties as essential to increase public confidence in the safety of chemicals. Under-regulation, not over-regulation, has been the clear problem in this arena for decades. 

EDF has submitted comments addressing the impact of this anti-regulatory process on implementing TSCA. EDF’s comments specifically address four actions that EPA has initiated or recently taken that are now under attack:

  1. Early Actions: EPA recently proposed bans – for the first time in nearly 30 years – of high-risk uses of three dangerous chemicals: trichloroethylene, dichloromethane, and N-methylpyrrolidone. Congress specifically authorized EPA to take these early actions to demonstrate that the new law was working. EDF has urged EPA leadership to follow and act on the science – which clearly points to the unreasonable risks of these chemicals – and not allow companies with a vested interest in these toxic chemicals to use this anti-regulatory process to derail these critical health protections. (You, too, can urge EPA to do so, here.)
  2. New Chemicals: Prior to TSCA reform, hundreds of new chemicals were allowed on the market every year without any demonstration that they were safe. Over the past year, EPA has made major improvements to its New Chemicals Review Program. However, some industry representatives are now attacking the program based on false assertions and are suggesting actions that are inconsistent with the law. Our comments address these claims.
  3. Framework Rules: The Lautenberg Act mandates that EPA develop three “framework” procedural rules to establish a robust system to identify, review, and manage chemicals already in commerce. The rules are required to be finalized by June (one year after the law’s enactment).  All three were proposed in January, and have gone through public comment. We strongly oppose consideration of these rules in the regulatory reform process: Not only are these rules mandated by law and not yet finalized, but stakeholders have been provided ample opportunity to comment on the rules, including on opportunities to create efficiencies.
  4. Nanomaterial Reporting: In January, EPA finalized a TSCA section 8 nanomaterial reporting rule after more than a decade of delay. The rule will finally allow EPA to obtain basic risk-relevant information on such Nanomaterials often exhibit unique properties that can allow for novel applications, but those same properties also present the potential for novel or enhanced negative impacts on health or the environment. We have strongly urged EPA to retain and not further delay this rule, as such information has been identified by numerous expert bodies as essential to understand and manage their potential risks.

The agency is just starting to implement the new system mandated by Congress to better protect the public’s health from toxic chemical exposures. Taking anti-regulatory aim at TSCA’s vital new protections will only further undermine public and market confidence in EPA and do nothing to provide the stability that the business community sought through TSCA reform.

 

We invite those interested in weighing in on behalf of protecting health and the environment to submit their own comments (feel free to use our comments as a resource). EPA is accepting comments to the docket until May 15th.

 

 

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