The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has moved to change the way it gathers data on commercial chemicals under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), prompting concerns from some environmental activists at a time when the agency is already under scrutiny after whistleblowers’ allegations that it’s fast-tracking dangerous chemicals because of industry pressure.
Three Democratic congressional committee heads have written to the agency seeking a response to the claims.
The TSCA, signed into law by President Gerald Ford in 1976, was most recently revised in 2016 through the bipartisan Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act, the House version of which passed 398-1. While the original TSCA had grandfathered in more than 60,000 chemicals that were already on the market, the Lautenberg Act mandated that the EPA assess the safety of chemicals already being sold.
The TSCA’s Chemical Data Reporting (CDR) rule requires manufacturers, including importers, to report information every four years on chemicals produced and used in commerce.
The changes to the CDR, discussed at a public webinar on July 27, would introduce Tiered Data Reporting (TDR) for chemicals. The EPA’s presentation states that the CDR would collect fewer data from manufacturers, while TDR would introduce three sequential datasets for chemicals identified for prioritization: a dataset for prioritization candidates, a dataset for prioritized chemicals, and a risk evaluation/risk management dataset for those chemicals.
The first two datasets would require reports three months after the date of listing, while the final dataset would require a report four to six months after listing.
“EPA is seeking to ensure that data collection strategies using more of the authorities available to EPA provide timely, relevant, and specific information tailored to better meet the agency’s basic chemical data needs related to TSCA, while minimizing the burden on industry stakeholders,” an EPA spokesperson told The Epoch Times in an email.
“By collecting specific data in a timely sequence that is relevant to the current needs of EPA, the agency is ensuring that it has the information necessary to fulfill its mission under TSCA and protect human health and the environment without unduly burdening the information providers.”
On Aug. 5, the EPA met with representatives from the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) to discuss EDF’s concerns with the tiered data collection strategy. According to the EPA’s summary of that meeting, the EDF expressed concerns that the new rule would decrease the amount of information gathered about individual chemicals.
In a donor appeal sent Aug. 13, the EDF wrote that the proposed changes “would significantly reduce what we know about thousands of chemicals in use today, even though this information is crucial for EPA to do its job.”
A spokesperson from the EDF declined to comment on the Chemical Data Reporting rules change or the EDF’s appeal to its supporters.
“While the planned rule would reduce the CDR data collected per chemical, if proposed and finalized, it would not reduce the number of chemicals for which CDR reporting is required, and through the TDR would add additional reporting requirements for selected chemicals,” an EPA spokesperson said in an email.
According to an EPA spokesperson, the proposed TDR rule is still under development, “informed by feedback from the public meeting and comments received.”
The move comes alongside recent allegations from four EPA whistleblowers of corruption in the EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, which administers the TSCA. As reported in The Intercept, the whistleblowers offered “detailed evidence of pressure within the agency to minimize or remove evidence of potential adverse effects of the chemicals, including neurological effects, birth defects, and cancer.”
Democratic leaders of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce drafted a letter to the head of the EPA, Michael S. Regan, requesting a response to the allegations.
“The Committee has a longstanding interest in ensuring EPA’s implementation of TSCA is based on sound science,” wrote Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-N.J.), Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chair Diana DeGette (D-Colo.), and Environment and Climate Change Subcommittee Chairman Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.). “We also firmly believe EPA’s scientific staff must be able to perform their work of protecting human health and the environment free from inappropriate interference and retaliation.
“The allegations made by the four whistleblowers are troubling, and, if true, raise serious concerns about EPA’s implementation of TSCA and about protections for EPA employees.”
The EPA spokesperson didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on the whistleblowers’ allegations, while Republican and Democratic lawmakers didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment on the proposed TSCA changes or the whistleblowers’ allegations.