Selected category: EPA

Getting the framework right for the new TSCA: EDF comments filed on key EPA proposed rules

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

Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) filed extensive comments yesterday on the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposals for the two most central “framework” rules mandated by last year’s Lautenberg Act amendments to the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).

Our comments address these proposed rules:

Both sets of comments address many different provisions of the proposed rules.  EDF indicated our strong support for many aspects of the proposals, but urged changes to a number of provisions that we cannot support as proposed.  In addition, we identified provisions we believe need to be added to EPA’s rules to be consistent with or meet the requirements of the Lautenberg Act.

EDF emphasized how vital it is for EPA to meet its June 22, 2017, statutory deadline for promulgating these rules.  Because they establish processes that will require several years to begin to yield decisions on specific chemicals, delays in promulgating them in final form so that the processes can commence in the timeframe Congress intended will only serve to undermine public confidence in the new law, counter business interests to restore confidence in the chemicals marketplace, and hamper EPA’s ability to carry out its new mandates.  This is especially the case, given EPA’s appropriate recognition in both proposed rules that it will need to initiate measures as soon as possible to ensure that sufficient information will be available to inform prioritization and risk evaluation decisions.

As discussed in more detail in the comments, EDF strongly supports EPA’s decision not to codify specific scientific policies, procedures and guidance in these rules.  To do so would not be consistent with the law and would more generally represent bad policy.  EDF also agreed with EPA’s proposal not to define in its rules complex, science policy-laden terms such as “weight of the scientific evidence,” “best available science,” and “unreasonable risk.”  These concepts are best elaborated on in guidance and policy statements and best understood in the context of specific decisions on chemical substances.

Some other highlights from each set of EDF’s comments follow.   Read More »

Also posted in Health Policy, Regulation, TSCA Reform| Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Congress just fixed TSCA – yet is now gearing up to re-impose the worst flaws of the old law across the entire Federal government

Richard Denison, Ph.D.is a Lead Senior Scientist.

I noted in a recent post EDF’s grave concerns about the Regulatory Accountability Act (RAA), which passed the House on January 11.  A shorter but still very concerning version of it may soon be introduced in the Senate, modeled on last Congress’ Senate version of RAA.  This bill would add dozens of burdensome and time-consuming hurdles to the rulemaking process, effectively crippling it and eliminating the health and safety protections rules are intended to provide.  To get a feel for all of the requirements, see this dizzying RAA flow chart.

Among other things, the RAA would mandate multiple rounds of cost and impact analysis of a potentially unlimited number of regulatory alternatives; require that all major rules go through an entirely new pre-proposal step, adding months if not longer to the rulemaking process; generally require that agencies choose the lowest-cost regulatory option, regardless of whether or not it is the best option or even sufficient to meet a law’s requirements; and require lengthy and resource-intensive public hearings on many rules.  To top all this off, the bill would require an agency to finalize a proposed rule within 2 years (subject to a 1-year extension) – a timeframe almost impossible to meet now without all of the additional requirements the Act would impose; if that deadline was not met, the agency would have to start over.

There is extreme irony in the advancement of the RAA in this Congress:  Just last June, both houses of Congress passed – with overwhelming bipartisan support – major reforms to the obsolete Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).  The Lautenberg Act removed from the original TSCA several major constraints on the rulemaking process that had so tied the hands of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that it could not even restrict asbestos, a known carcinogen that kills more than 10,000 Americans every year.  There was widespread agreement among industry and other stakeholders that those provisions of the old TSCA were detrimental or unnecessary to an efficient regulatory system and were undermining public and market confidence in the federal chemical safety system – not to mention failing to protect public health.

So here’s the irony:  The RAA would impose those same knot-tying strictures that the Lautenberg Act just got rid of – and expand them to rulemakings undertaken by any federal agency.  Let’s look at some of these crippling requirements, based on last Congress’s Senate version of the RAA:   Read More »

Also posted in Health Policy, TSCA Reform| Tagged , | Comments are closed

No, chemical industry, you can’t have your cake and eat it too (Part 2)

Richard Denison, Ph.D.is a Lead Senior Scientist.

[Part 1 here]

We have been watching with growing alarm the rapidly unfolding efforts by leadership in Congress and the Trump Administration to gut health and safety protections that provide millions of Americans with clean air, water and safe products.  Support by the American Chemistry Council (ACC) for such efforts, detailed below, gives us profound worry and deep frustration given the trade association’s support of major reforms to the Toxic Substances Control Act last year.

Many of ACC’s member companies worked for many years to move the industry towards strong federal legislation that can restore public and market confidence in the safety of their products.  Many of these companies have also been embracing sustainability commitments, and have acknowledged that a strong federal chemicals management system is critical for charting the path to a safer more sustainable future.  Those companies with a real commitment to safer chemicals and sustainability should be very alarmed that their trade association has endorsed legislation and the Trump Administration’s deregulatory executive order that would profoundly limit EPA’s and the rest of the Federal government’s ability to protect human health and the environment.

These actions by the executive and legislative branches will or would severely constrain EPA from acting to address chemical risks under the Lautenberg Act as well as other federal laws that protect our air, water, land, workplaces, schools and homes.

Here are the specifics:   Read More »

Also posted in Health Policy, TSCA Reform| Tagged | Comments are closed

No, chemical industry, you can’t have your cake and eat it too (Part 1)

Richard Denison, Ph.D.is a Lead Senior Scientist.

There is an extreme anti-regulatory and anti-science bandwagon moving fast through Washington, and much of the chemical industry seems to have jumped right on board.  We’re also seeing growing signs of industry pushback against even modest early actions EPA is taking to implement the Lautenberg Act, which reformed the obsolete Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) and passed with strong bipartisan support only last June.

Companies have every right to provide their input to EPA and argue the case for their chemicals in accordance with designated processes the agency has established for this purpose.  But resorting to tactics of obstruction and delay won’t fool anyone.  That’s the very thing that brought about the public crisis in confidence surrounding this industry in the first place.

I’ll address these concerns in this and a second post to follow.  This post will address several attempts by some in the chemical industry to thwart EPA’s efforts to implement the new TSCA.  The second post will look at the industry’s main trade association’s unabashed – indeed, boisterous – support for a new Executive Order and multiple “regulatory reform” bills moving in Congress, which it embraces despite the fact that they would impose on EPA (and other agencies’) rulemakings – including those under the new TSCA – dozens of new knot-tying strictures, some of which the Lautenberg Act just got rid of.

This suggests that some in the industry have a very short memory:  What led the industry to finally support TSCA reform was its recognition that the public, other levels of government and the market itself have little confidence in the safety of its products or the ability of government to protect people and the environment from toxic chemicals.  Any relief it sought from its initial endorsement of a stronger federal chemical safety system will quickly dissipate if industry representatives – emboldened by the current political climate – take actions to stymie implementation of the new law and to buoy executive and legislative vehicles that would bring the regulatory system to a grinding halt.

So, let’s start with a few of the battles that some in the industry are waging to undercut recent EPA actions, authorized under the new TSCA, to restrict three highly toxic chemicals – trichloroethylene (TCE), methylene chloride (MC) and N-methylpyrrolidone (NMP) – the first such actions taken under TSCA in nearly 30 years.  Read More »

Also posted in Health Policy, TSCA Reform| Tagged , , , | Comments are closed

When it comes to lead, formula-fed infants get most from water and toddlers from food, but for highest exposed children the main source of lead is soil and dust

Tom Neltner, J.D.is Chemicals Policy Director

On January 19, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a major new draft report proposing three different approaches to setting health-based benchmarks for lead in drinking water. We applauded EPA’s action and explored the implications for drinking water in a previous blog. One of the agency’s approaches provides useful, and surprising, insights into where the lead that undermines the health of our children comes from. Knowing the sources enables regulators and stakeholders to set science-based priorities to reduce exposures and the estimated $50 billion that lead costs society each year.

The EPA draft report is available for public comments until March 6, 2017, and it is undergoing external peer-review by experts in the field in support of the agency’s planned revisions to its Lead and Copper Rule (LCR) for drinking water. Following this public peer-review process, EPA expects to evaluate and determine what specific role or roles a health-based value may play in the revised LCR. With the understanding that some of the content may change, here are my takeaways from the draft:

  • For the 20% of most exposed infants and toddlers, dust/soil is the largest source of lead. Since we know that 21% of U.S. homes (24 out of 114 million) have lead-based paint hazards, this should not be surprising.
  • For most infants, lead in water and soil/dust have similar contributions to blood lead levels, with food as a smaller source. If the infant is formula-fed, water dominates.
  • For 2/3 of toddlers, food appears to provide the majority of their exposure to lead. This result was a surprise for me. EPA used data from the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Total Diet Study collected from 2007 to 2013 coupled with food consumption data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey collected from 2005 to 2011. In August 2016, FDA reported on levels of lead (and cadmium in food) commonly eaten by infants and toddlers based on a data set that is different from its Total Diet Study. FDA concluded that these levels, “on average, are relatively low and are not likely to cause a human health concern.”
  • For all children, air pollution appears to be a minor source of lead exposure. We think it is most likely because exposure is localized around small airports and industrial sources.

For a visual look at the data, we extracted two charts from the draft EPA report (page 81) that show the relative contribution of the four sources of lead for infants (0-6 month-olds) and toddlers (1 to <2 year-olds) considered by the agency. The charts represent national exposure distributions and not specific geographical areas or age of housing.

Read More »

Also posted in Drinking Water, Emerging Science, FDA, Food, Health Policy, lead| Tagged , , , , , , | Comments are closed

California requires replacement of all lead service lines – but vigilance needed on implementation

Tom Neltner, J.D.is Chemicals Policy Director

In 2016, California became the first state in the country to make enforceable commitments to eliminating all lead service lines (LSLs) in the state.  These lead pipes that connect the main under the street to homes are the primary source of lead in drinking water and unpredictably release lead particulate when disturbed.  Under the leadership of Senator Connie Leyva, the state’s Senate voted unanimously, and the Assembly voted 72 to 7 to pass SB1398 to require drinking water utilities to inventory LSLs in use and then provide the State Water Resources Control Board (Water Board) a timeline for replacement of the lines.

Based on a national survey of utilities, the American Water Works Association reported that California has 65,000 LSLs out of 6.1 million nationally.  Large utilities have the most with 46,000 LSLs, medium systems have 4,700 and small systems have 15,000.  However, most utilities do not have an accurate inventory of LSLs, so the true number may be much greater.

California’s SB1398 recognized that an accurate inventory was critical and laid out a thoughtful two-step plan to accomplish the objective of full LSL replacement.  By July 1, 2018, it requires public water systems (PWS) to submit an inventory of known LSLs and a timeline for their replacement.  Two years later, PWSs must submit an updated inventory of LSLs and provide a timeline to replace any service line where it may be made of lead.  The law does not set a deadline for replacement that PWSs must meet.

This two-step approach makes replacing known LSLs the highest priority and, by essentially presuming that a service line is lead unless known otherwise, also creates an incentive for PWSs to develop accurate inventories in the next three years.

Read More »

Also posted in Drinking Water, lead, Regulation, States| Tagged , , , , , , , | Comments are closed
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