This excerpt was written by Richard Denison, Ph.D., EDF Lead Senior Scientist:
“The agency’s goal is to allow the commercialization of products,” said EPA associate deputy assistant administrator for new chemicals Lynn Dekleva.
How the Trump EPA has implemented – in our view, twisted – the 2016 reforms made to the review process for new chemicals under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). Decision after decision over the last 3.5 years under this administration has undercut public health and benefitted industry interests, despite some noble efforts by career staff to chart a better course. In recent weeks the Trump EPA’s intentions have been even more clearly revealed, thanks to the trade press’s reporting of EPA political appointees’ comments delivered to industry audiences. That’s what this post is about.
EPA is prioritizing speed to market above all else, and to do so it has made weakening changes to every aspect of its new chemical reviews:
- avoiding regulating risks that new chemicals pose to workers even when those risks exceed EPA risk benchmarks, sometimes by orders of magnitude;
- making it far harder for EPA to identify an activity associated with a new chemical as “reasonably foreseen,” by effectively redefining the statutory term to compel agency staff to demonstrate the activity is highly likely to occur;
- failing to evaluate risks of a reasonably foreseen use or other activity, even where one is identified, in combination with intended uses as TSCA requires, and instead relegating it at best to a future review isolated from the first one;
- avoiding imposing testing requirements on new chemicals at all costs despite major data gaps, flying in the face of a key reform to TSCA;
- repeatedly distorting TSCA’s sole provision referencing “innovation” to erase its emphasis on ensuring new chemicals do not present risks to health and the environment;
- failing to conduct timely review of the myriad confidentiality claims in new chemical notices, thereby denying the public access to health and safety information; and
- continuing to deny the public timely access to information on new chemicals and the basis for EPA’s decisions about them, even as the agency makes it easier for companies to know exactly where their chemicals are in the review process.
EPA has couched these moves as being responsive to the concerns of “stakeholders” and as “enhancing transparency,” with nary a nod to their virtually one-sided nature.
But in recent weeks the Trump EPA’s intentions have been clearly revealed, thanks to the trade press’s reporting of EPA political appointees’ comments, made most recently in a series of pay-per-view weekly webinars sponsored by the American Chemistry Council, held in lieu of its annual GlobalChem conference. While that conference has always featured a steady stream of EPA staff seeking to account for their actions to an industry audience, the comments dribbling out over the last few weeks attributed to EPA speakers have been particularly illuminating…