EPA’s Application of Toxic Substances Control Act Prompts Environmental Groups to Sue

by | Aug 16, 2017

This article is included in these additional categories:

Now that President Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency has said that it will evaluate chemicals according to their risk factors in an effort to get new products into the market, several environmental groups have said they are suing the agency. Spearheaded by Earthjustice, the groups have filed two suits: one is over the methodology EPA will use to set the ground rules for how it will prioritize chemicals for safety review and the second is exactly how it will evaluate those chemicals. 

It is all tied to the updated Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), which Congress updated in 2016. Under the law, EPA must complete risk evaluations within certain time frames and using certain scientific methods. One of the reasons for the update is because of the backlog of chemicals that had yet to be approved, which manufacturers said was hurting their businesses. 

However, Earthjustice said it just filed the complaint in federal court in San Francisco to hold those same manufacturers responsible for protecting workers and families from chemical risks.

“After Congress took bipartisan action to make desperately needed updates to our chemical safety laws, the Trump Administration has turned back the clock, leaving families and workers at risk,” said Eve Gartner, an attorney at Earthjustice. “The EPA’s newly adopted rules—overseen by a former high-level chemical industry official with head-spinning conflicts of interest—will leave children, communities and workers vulnerable to dangerous chemicals. This lawsuit is about one thing: holding the Trump EPA to the letter of the law and ensuring it fulfills its mandate to protect the public.” 

In 2016, Congress amended the chemical law, TSCA, for the first time in 40 years. It now requires EPA to conduct comprehensive risk evaluations of chemicals without regard to cost. But Earthjustice said that the Trump administration has “dramatically weakened” the rules. For more than six years, Earthjustice said that it has fought for TSCA reform to ensure the EPA adequately protects the public and environment from harmful chemicals.

But chemical manufacturers say a backlog of chemicals awaiting EPA approval is hurting their ability to compete in a global market, noting that they have asked EPA to help them get product off the shelf and into the market in a more timely fashion: The backlog has doubled from 331 to 658 chemicals, Environmental Leader has reported, which then quotes Bloomberg saying that only 33 new chemicals have been approved since the reform took effect last year. 

“EPA must be flexible in its scoping of risk evaluations so it can maintain both pace and quality, and to inform the regulatory decision-making process in the most meaningful way,” the American Chemistry Council (ACC) said in a separate comment to EPA. “EPA should conduct its scoping to include conditions of use that are relevant and meaningful to a fit-for-purpose risk evaluation, and well-tailored to the problems and decisions at hand.

ACC recommends that EPA apply a tiered approach throughout the risk evaluation process,” it added. “This approach will allow EPA to identify and consider the most relevant and highest risk conditions of use in an efficient and practical manner.” 

Under EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, the agency has said that it is committed to “transparency” and to thorough reviews based on scientific methods. Still, that falls short, note the environmental groups suing the agency, which fear that the review process has been softened to favor manufacturers.

“Our union has fought for decades to control harmful worker exposures to chemicals,” Michael Wright, Director of Health, Safety and Environment for the United Steelworkers said. “Since Congress updated TSCA, we continue to hold EPA accountable and ensure that strong regulations protect workers from occupational disease caused by chemical exposures.”

Additional articles you will be interested in.

Stay Informed

Get E+E Leader Articles delivered via Newsletter right to your inbox!

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
Share This