Selected tags: data requirements

Better late than never: EPA finally takes first step to collect safety data on fracking chemicals

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

Nearly two-and-a-half years after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency  partially granted a petition filed under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) by EDF, Earthjustice, and 114 other groups calling for a rulemaking to require companies that make or process chemicals used in oil and gas production, the agency finally responded today.

This morning EPA issued what’s known as an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) seeking public input on “the information that should be reported or disclosed for hydraulic fracturing chemical substances and mixtures and the mechanism for obtaining this information.” A 90-day comment period will start once the notice is published in the Federal Register next week.

What Today’s Announcement Means

The process that begins with today’s announcement is directed to manufacturers and processors of fracking chemicals and would call on them to report to EPA health- and safety-related data they have on those chemicals. Notably, it would apply not only to the presently undisclosed chemicals used in these operations, but also to hundreds of substances whose use in fracking is already widely reported, but for which little or no health or environmental safety data are available.

This effort is distinct from others aimed at drilling companies and well operators, which seek to reveal what materials are going down a well, but don’t indicate what their potential effects might be.

While much of the health and environmental effects data EPA would receive could become public and hence would complement and add valuable information to disclosure efforts, the main aim is to ensure EPA has information sufficient to understand the potential risks of the subject chemicals at an aggregate, national level.

It’s also worth noting that not all of the data reported to EPA would necessarily become available to the public; under the Toxic Substances Control Act, companies can claim certain information constitutes confidential business information, in which case EPA cannot disclose it to the public. That is, the agency would know but we would not.

A Long Road Ahead

This is only the first baby step toward initiating the rulemaking process EPA said it would undertake. EPA intends to use input it receives during the comment period to decide both how and what information should be reported.

The original petition asked the agency to require companies that make or process chemicals used in oil and gas production to: a) report basic production, processing and available health and safety information on those chemicals, and b) conduct testing to fill data gaps in the available information. In November, 2011, EPA granted the first part but denied the second, and limited the scope to just chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing. EPA said it would issue the ANPRM, and begin a stakeholder process – both of which would be used to solicit input as to the scope of the reporting rules.

It’s unfortunate that this process has taken so long, as it addresses a critical need to ensure the safety of chemicals used in fracking. It will be essential that the public engage in the development of EPA’s reporting system to ensure it delivers the needed information to EPA and maximizes public access to that information.

   

Posted in Health Policy, Regulation | Tagged | Comments closed

New Draft of House Chemical Safety Bill Falls Short; EDF Calls on All Sides to Redouble Effort

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

Release in response to today's House Environment and Economy Subcommittee hearing on a revised discussion draft of the Chemicals in Commerce Act (CICA)

Today’s hearing makes clear that the discussion draft has made progress but still falls far short of legislation that will fix the fundamental flaws of the current law, according to Dr. Richard Denison, Lead Senior Scientist at Environmental Defense Fund. He urged all sides to keep the bipartisan process moving forward in both houses of Congress.

“While bipartisan discussions have yielded a number of substantial improvements to address serious concerns with the original draft, the most problematic provisions remain virtually untouched,” Denison said. “The goal now should be to keep the conversations going.”

Examples of progress include giving the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) authority to require testing where data are insufficient for prioritization purposes; incorporation of deadlines for agency action to assess and address risks of high-priority chemicals; and less prescriptive and onerous information quality and evaluation requirements.

Sections of the draft pose major concerns and fail to strike a fair and reasonable balance. Examples include the sweeping preemption of state authority for chemicals never subject to a thorough EPA safety review; overly broad allowances for companies to mask the identity of chemicals even long after market entry; and a failure to ensure that conditions placed on new chemicals apply to all companies making or using them.

“We’re optimistic that solutions are at hand that address the needs of all stakeholders, but it is going to take a redoubling of effort by all sides to get there,” he said.

 

Posted in Health Policy, TSCA Reform | Also tagged , , , | Comments closed

The perverting of prioritization: How a good idea for TSCA reform went bad – and how to save it

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

For years, the concept of prioritization as an element of TSCA reform has enjoyed support from a broad array of stakeholders.  The number of chemicals in active commerce is large, if uncertain:  surely less than the 85,000 listed on the TSCA Inventory, but still in the tens of thousands. That sheer number demands that EPA develop and apply a process to decide where to start and how to sequence the enormous task of reviewing the safety of those chemicals. 

There has also been widespread agreement that EPA should make an initial pass using available information to identify three groups of chemicals:  a) those that present significant hazard or exposure potential or both; b) those for which existing information doesn’t raise such concerns; and c) those that need more information to determine their level of concern.

As conceived, prioritization was to be a low-stakes proposition for the various stakeholders, simply the means to get the new system up and running.  Prioritization decisions would not be final actions; rather, they were expressly designed to minimize dispute, and would be barred from legal challenge.  Chemicals identified as high priority and in need of immediate scrutiny would get a more thorough assessment before any decision as to whether they posed significant risk and required a regulatory response.  Chemicals identified as low-priority would be so designated provisionally based on less than a thorough assessment, and could be revisited if and when new information arose.  And chemicals lacking sufficient information to be prioritized would be subject to further data collection and generation, and then funneled back into the prioritization process.

These concepts are well-established both in the outcomes of industry-NGO negotiations and in heavily negotiated provisions of the more recent incarnations of the Safe Chemicals Act.

But then some folks got greedy.  Read More »

Posted in Health Policy, TSCA Reform | Also tagged , | Comments closed

West Virginia officials trust shaky science in rush to restore water service: One-part-per-million “safe” threshold has questionable basis

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

[SEE NOTE ADDED 1/15/14 BELOW]

In a press conference today outlining plans to restart the water system serving 300,000 people, West Virginia state officials and executives from the West Virginia American Water utility company stressed that levels of the toxic chemical that contaminated the supply after last week’s spill had reached a “safe” level of one part per million (1 ppm), the threshold agreed upon by state and federal officials on Saturday.

Unfortunately, the science behind this standard remains unclear.  Based on what we do know, there are good reasons to believe that officials are overlooking significant health risks.  Read More »

Posted in Environment, Health Policy, Regulation | Also tagged , , , | 36 Responses, comments now closed

Repost: The new Safe Chemicals Act fulfills every detail of ACC’s 10 “Principles for Modernizing TSCA”

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

[NOTE:  I am reposting this piece, given that it was first posted during the dog days of August and I don't want those interested to have missed it in digging out from time away from the office.  If you have an interest in understanding just how much the Safe Chemicals Act has changed to account for earlier industry concerns, please take the time to look at the analysis I've done comparing the bill to ACC's TSCA Principles.]

You wouldn’t know it from listening to the American Chemistry Council (ACC) talk about the Safe Chemicals Act, but the new and improved version of the bill that was passed out of the Senate Environment & Public Works Committee on July 25 closely mirrors every detail of ACC’s 10 “Principles for Modernizing TSCA.”.

Those principles, issued in August of 2009, represent a key reference point given that they are virtually the only somewhat detailed public articulation by ACC of its substantive position on TSCA reform, one to which ACC continues to refer today.  In describing its principles, ACC says they “create a roadmap to a modern chemical regulatory system that will protect public health and the environment, while preserving the ability of American chemical companies to drive innovation, grow jobs, and compete in the global marketplace.”

ACC indicated in its statement on the revised bill that it only conducted a “cursory review” of the bill language, which perhaps explains why it got even some basics wrong.  One example:  ACC claims “[t]he bill would also dramatically increase the time it would take for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to review new chemicals.”  In fact, the revised bill retains the 90-day review period for new chemicals operable under current TSCA.

So how does the bill stack up against ACC’s 10 Principles for TSCA Modernization?  Read More »

Posted in Health Policy, TSCA Reform | Also tagged , , , , | Comments closed

The new Safe Chemicals Act fulfills every detail of ACC’s 10 “Principles for Modernizing TSCA”

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

You wouldn’t know it from listening to the American Chemistry Council (ACC) talk about the Safe Chemicals Act, but the new and improved version of the bill that was passed out of the Senate Environment & Public Works Committee on July 25 closely mirrors every detail of ACC’s 10 “Principles for Modernizing TSCA.”.

Those principles, issued in August of 2009, represent a key reference point given that they are virtually the only somewhat detailed public articulation by ACC of its substantive position on TSCA reform, one to which ACC continues to refer today.  In describing its principles, ACC says they “create a roadmap to a modern chemical regulatory system that will protect public health and the environment, while preserving the ability of American chemical companies to drive innovation, grow jobs, and compete in the global marketplace.”

ACC indicated in its statement on the revised bill that it only conducted a “cursory review” of the bill language, which perhaps explains why it got even some basics wrong.  One example:  ACC claims “[t]he bill would also dramatically increase the time it would take for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to review new chemicals.”  In fact, the revised bill retains the 90-day review period for new chemicals operable under current TSCA.

So how does the bill stack up against ACC’s 10 Principles for TSCA Modernization?  Read More »

Posted in Health Policy, TSCA Reform | Also tagged , , , , | Comments closed

No shame: ACC plunges to new low in fighting your right to know

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

This post is longer than usual and starts with a rather esoteric topic, but I urge you to read it through, as it vividly shows there is no limit to the lengths to which the American Chemistry Council (ACC) will go to squirm out of a regulatory requirement, even if it means violating rules by which ACC had agreed to abide.

But that’s far from the worst of it.  Going farther than even I could imagine when I blogged earlier about its tactics, ACC is sparing no effort to deny your right to know about the health impacts of chemicals, by mustering every argument it can invent – however far-fetched – to  keep health and safety studies from being shared with the public.

ACC insists that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) should hassle the European Union (EU) instead of its members for the health and safety data ACC promised to provide – despite the fact that the chemical industry itself has thrown up major roadblocks to such sharing.  And reaching a new low in tortured logic, ACC argues that, should EPA succeed in getting its hands on the health and safety data submitted to the EU, EPA can and should deny the public access to those data – despite the fact that the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) clearly prohibits EPA from withholding such information.  Read More »

Posted in Health Policy, Industry Influence, Regulation | Also tagged , , , , , | Comments closed

ECHA gives a CoRAP: REACH substance evaluation kicks off with list of target chemicals

Allison Tracy is a Chemicals Policy Fellow.

Posts to this blog concerning REACH – the European Union’s regulation for the Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals – have dealt mainly with the “R” and “A”.  A few weeks ago, the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) took a first big step to capitalize on the “E” (Evaluation).

Specifically, the final 2012-2014 Community Rolling Action Plan (CoRAP) was published on February 29th (see ECHA’s press release).  After many months of consultation with the Member States, ECHA has released the list of 90 chemicals that will be the first to undergo REACH’s substance evaluation process in 2012, 2013, and 2014.

Existing data guided the prioritization process that led to the production of this list, but REACH’s authorities granted for substance evaluation will allow ECHA and the Member States to gather new information to fill data gaps.  This new information will help to improve both governmental and public knowledge about the risks these chemicals may pose to human health and the environment.  Read More »

Posted in EU REACH, Health Policy | Also tagged , , , , , , , , | Comments closed

More “A”-level work under REACH: ECHA adds eight chemicals to the Authorization List

Allison Tracy is a Chemicals Policy Fellow.

The European Commission has formally added eight more chemicals to the list of chemicals subject to authorization under the European Union’s Regulation on Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH).  These eight chemicals, which were proposed for addition to the Authorization List (or Annex XIV) in December 2010, join the six inaugural chemicals that were formally listed last February (see EDF’s blog post on that occasion).  The full Authorization List is available on ECHA’s website; the list also specifies the corresponding sunset date by which time uses of a chemical must cease unless specifically authorized. Read More »

Posted in EU REACH, Health Policy | Also tagged , , | Comments closed

No orphan left behind: Health and environmental NGOs support EPA’s proposed paired rules to address high production volume "orphan" chemicals

Richard Denison, Ph.D., is a Senior Scientist.  Allison Tracy is a Chemicals Policy Fellow.

Environmental Defense Fund today submitted comments along with 15 other health, environmental justice and state and national environmental organizations, in support of EPA’s proposed rule to address the final batch of 45 “orphan” chemicals that were never sponsored under the agency’s earlier High Production Volume (HPV) Challenge Program.

An earlier post to this blog highlighted and applauded the novel, innovative and efficient approach EPA has proposed, which actually entails the coupling of two rules:

(1) a test rule for 23 of these HPV chemicals for which EPA can make the requisite exposure findings to require testing, combined with:

(2) a Significant New Use Rule (SNUR) for the other 22 HPV chemicals for which EPA cannot presently make such findings, which requires companies to notify EPA if their production or use of those chemicals changes so as to increase the potential for exposure and then warrant testing.

The comments we filed today reiterate our strong support for this approach – and propose that the same approach be extended to several additional batches of HPV chemicals that still lack a basic set of hazard data.

Read More »

Posted in EPA, Health Policy, Regulation | Also tagged , , , | Comments closed
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