Oct. 11, 2011 by Lena Pons

EPA Should Move Forward on Naming Priority Chemicals

EPA’s chemical management efforts have been under attack on every front. Chemical safety was one of Lisa Jackson’s priorities from her first day as EPA administrator. But during her tenure, efforts to improve chemicals policy at the agency have been met with fierce resistance. One recent attack was on EPA’s efforts to identify priority chemicals for risk assessment and risk management. 

Jackson has already tried one strategy to beef up the agency’s response to hazardous chemicals through the Chemical Action Plans. The plans quickly became a target for chemical industry groups, and in August, EPA announced that it was scrapping the program, and published a discussion guide for a new approach to prioritizing chemicals for risk assessment and potential regulation. EPA recently hosted a public discussion blog on principles for identifying priority chemicals for review and assessment. 

Despite the reset, EPA’s discussion guide covers mostly familiar territory on toxics. EPA’s proposed two-step process would draw from existing sources of chemical hazard and exposure data, including EPA’s beleaguered Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS); the Toxics Release Inventory’s Persistent, Bioaccumulative, and Toxic rule; the International Agency for Research on Cancer; and the National Toxicology …

Sept. 8, 2011 by Lena Pons

In May 2010, EPA sent a draft “Chemicals of Concern” list, including bisphenol A (BPA) and five other chemicals, to the White House’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) for review. The proposed list would be the first time EPA has used its authority under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) to publish such a list of chemicals that “may present an unreasonable risk of injury to health or the environment.” Today marks one year since OIRA exceeded the 120-day deadline for completing its review of EPA’s proposed chemicals of concern list.

The proposed list has met with fierce industry resistance, even though being added to the list only requires some minor additional reporting requirements.  Between Jun. 2010 and Jan. 2011, OIRA hosted eight meetings to discuss the proposed list. Of those meetings, seven were with industry groups and trade associations including ExxonMobil, Dow …

July 18, 2011 by Lena Pons

In April, CPR released a paper that looked at 12 critical rulemaking activities that we urged the Obama administration to finish by June 2012. The new regulatory agendas released by the agencies earlier this month show that instead of moving forward, the agencies are often slowing down.  Contrary to the “tsunami” of regulations that the Chamber of Commerce claims is hampering economic recovery, this is a molasses flow that will delay life-saving public protections for workers, air breathers and water drinkers. 

One rule that was on track in April is now definitely off track: an update to the National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS) for particulate matter. Another rule that was on track is now probably off track: the Power Plant New Source Performance Standards for limiting greenhouse gases were pushed back from May 2012 to Jun 2012, which is the deadline we identified to complete rules …

July 13, 2011 by Lena Pons

Last week, the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) of the Office of Management and Budget released the semiannual regulatory agenda. I pointed out that the agenda, which contains the regulatory agencies’ planned actions, was quite late. Although the plans share problems from past years, like simply pushing back the target dates for regulatory actions, there are some pleasant surprises. For example, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is moving forward with some proactive regulatory responses to the Toyota recalls of 2009, and the EPA plans to propose or finalize updates to National Emissions Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAPs) for 30 sources. Here’s an overview of some highlights (not covering everything) from the regulatory plans. More information about each individual rulemaking can be found by following the links.

Occupational Safety and Health Administration

  • OSHA has eight occupational standards working through the arduous pre-rule …

July 7, 2011 by Lena Pons

The Administration has been busy promoting President Obama’s new approach to regulatory review, which required federal regulatory agencies to produce plans for how they would review existing regulations and look for regulations to cut. But while the mad dash to find regulations the administration can trot out as misguided or outdated continued, the agencies were delayed in releasing plans about what they want to do proactively to protect workers, children, and the environment.

As our friend Celeste Monforton over at The Pump Handle pointed out a couple of weeks ago, advocates have been waiting on these plans for quite some time. The Regulatory Flexibility Act requires agencies to submit the agendas each April and October. Monforton said OMB told her to expect the plans in early July. And so the new agenda was published today.

The agencies’ regulatory plans give advocates, business, and everyone else a …

June 2, 2011 by Lena Pons

For the last two decades, scientists have amassed evidence that bisphenol A (BPA) poses a threat to human health. BPA is a chemical used in the manufacture of polycarbonate plastic, can liners for food and beverages, and thermal paper used for register receipts. It is used in so many applications that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found traces of BPA in 93 percent of people it tested. Although scientists have targeted BPA as a public health concern, plastics industry lobbyists have attempted to thwart the efforts of federal, state, and local authorities to reduce exposure to BPA.

The industry arguments can confuse the public because the way BPA acts on the body is counter-intuitive. Contrary to the old toxicology axiom that “the dose makes the poison,” smaller amounts of BPA are linked to a host of negative health effects. BPA is an endocrine disruptor, a …

Dec. 20, 2010 by Lena Pons

In October, EPA requested nominations for substances that it should evaluate under the Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS). Today CPR releases Setting Priorities for IRIS: 47 Chemicals that Should Move to the Head of the Risk-Assessment Line -- a paper that we've submitted to EPA as our nominations for priority chemicals.

Following up on our recent IRIS reform white paper, which made recommendations for how to improve the IRIS process and complete more reviews of basic toxicology information, CPR has completed additional research into how EPA sets priorities for IRIS assessments. The paper was written by CPR President Rena Steinzor, Policy Analyst Matt Shudtz, and myself.

We found 253 chemicals that have been identified by EPA regulatory program offices that are missing key IRIS information. From this list, we named 47 that we believe need to be the highest-priority, based on the air toxics, drinking water, and Superfund …

Dec. 1, 2010 by Lena Pons

Update: EPA and NHTSA have issued the Supplemental Notice of Intent.

The regulatory process is often complex: agencies must balance opportunities for public comment, complex scientific information, and economic analysis, all while trying to craft a program that fulfills a legal mandate. But when it comes to crafting proposals for vehicle fuel economy and greenhouse gas standards, the process has become an administrative nightmare.

In May, President Obama announced plans for the EPA and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to propose fuel economy standards for 2017-2025. Last week, EPA and NHTSA sent a supplemental notice of intent to propose fuel economy standards to OMB's Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) for review. OIRA has 90 days to review the document, but it is expected to be released  in the coming weeks.

The document is the third official statement of policy to come from the Obama …

Nov. 9, 2010 by Lena Pons

A new CPR white paper released today evaluates EPA’s performance in improving its database of human health information on toxic substances. The Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) contains “profiles” with bottom-line health effects information for 540 substances; federal regulators, as well as state and local governments and regulated industry itself, rely on the assessments to make decisions in protecting the public from harm.

In Corrective Lenses for IRIS: Additional Reforms to Improve EPA’s Integrated Risk Information System (press release), CPR found that due to procedural changes and attacks from regulated industry and other federal agencies, the information in IRIS hasn’t kept pace with the needs of EPA’s program offices that regulate toxic substances in the air, water and land. "We found 255 chemicals that Congress or EPA have listed as regulatory targets that are waiting for IRIS profiles." Among the 255 are …

Sept. 29, 2010 by Lena Pons

Senator Mary Landrieu (D-La.) currently has a hold on Jacob Lew’s confirmation to become the next director of the Office of Management and Budget, and says she won't release it until the Obama Administration ends the moratorium on deepwater oil and gas drilling. She said that while Lew “clearly possesses the expertise necessary to serve…he lacks sufficient concern for the host of economic challenges confronting the Gulf Coast.”

Sen. Landrieu seems to be ignoring the impacts of too hastily allowing oil companies to engage in risky drilling operations – something that came sharply into focus when BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded, killing 11 rig workers and spilling an estimated two hundred million gallons of oil into the Gulf. But the impacts of too quickly rushing back into the same inadequate regulatory oversight that contributed to this oil spill don’t seem to factor into …

More on CPR's Work & Scholars.
Oct. 11, 2011

EPA Should Move Forward on Naming Priority Chemicals

Sept. 8, 2011

White House Review of 'Chemicals of Concern' List A Full Year Past Due

July 18, 2011

Regulatory Plans Show Agencies at Risk of Failing to Finish Numerous Critical Rules During President Obama's First Term

July 13, 2011

Some Pleasant Surprises in Agency Regulatory Plans

July 7, 2011

Looking Back, But How Much Looking Ahead? Agencies Release Regulatory Agendas Months Late

June 2, 2011

New CPR White Paper Tackles Industry Myths About BPA

Dec. 20, 2010

New CPR White Paper Proposes 47 Priority Chemicals for EPA's IRIS Toxic Chemical Database