Industry to EPA, Congress: Restrain me before I falsely claim CBI again!

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

Sara Goodman of Greenwire/E&E News had a great piece picked up by the New York Times yesterday about state governments pressing for meaningful TSCA reform.  I blogged earlier about the states’ reform principles, quoting Ted Sturdevant, Director of the Washington State Department of Ecology, urging that “[w]e need a federal law that prevents contamination from happening in the first place, and phases out the harmful chemicals that are already in widespread use.”

Goodman’s piece yesterday focused more on the need for fundamental reform of confidential business information (CBI) claim allowances under TSCA.  Recall that, under TSCA, state governments as well as the public are denied access to any CBI EPA receives.  Judging by their quotes in Goodman’s piece, they’re not happy about it: 

  • “It doesn’t seem right that we have to go elsewhere to get information, it seems like the role of the federal government [should be] to help support us,” said Ken Zarker, pollution prevention manager with Washington state’s Department of Ecology.
  • Added Ginger Jordan-Hilliard, public health coordinator for Maine’s Environmental Protection Department, “We’re talking about a very basic right to know, which is needed by consumers, regulators, workers. … If [a chemical] is in products we’re going to use, we feel like people ought to have access to robust information.”

I got what I thought was a nice quote in there, too, pointing out that under TSCA, “[t]he presumption is against disclosure, even for information that nobody would argue is legitimate CBI.  That culture has permeated the agency and its practices so deeply it’s just second nature at this point.”

But the other half of the equation, in addition to EPA leniency, is the chemical industry’s profligacy in making claims.  Remarkably, that’s a view apparently shared by at least the National Petrochemical & Refiners Association.  Here’s my favorite quote from Goodman’s piece:

“The trade group’s vice president, [Jim] Cooper, said confidentiality claims have run amok because there is no easy EPA mechanism to switch off claims.  ‘EPA has to figure out a way to provide companies with a mechanism where they can recategorize the confidentiality of chemicals,’ Cooper said. ‘It’s got to be efficient, then it will be used.’”

Well, they always say that admitting one has a problem of excess is the first step toward recovery.

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