Biden-Harris EPA provides updates on chemical safety actions; Judge throws out Trump EPA ruling

By February 28, 2021 No Comments

The EPA has announced that it is reviewing actions issued under the previous Administration and will take any needed steps to ensure that they protect human health and the environment. The announcement included an update on chemical safety actions that have immediate or near-term effective dates or other steps associated with them. According to the announcement, these actions, along with other chemical safety actions identified by the Biden-Harris Administration, “will undergo review (and, as necessary, revisions) to ensure they are protective of human health and the environment.”

Under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), EPA was required to take expedited action on certain persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic (PBT) chemicals and promulgate final risk management actions no later than the statutory deadline of December 2020. Final rules took effect February 5, 2021. EPA states that it “may consider additional measures, approaches, or revisions that build upon the steps taken thus far.”

Other actions being reviewed include the Dust Lead Post-Abatement Clearance Level (DLCL) Final Rule and TSCA risk evaluations and risk management for ten chemicals.

Judge throws out Trump rule limiting what science EPA can use

A federal judge vacated the Trump administration rule limiting which scientific studies the Environmental Protection Agency can use in crafting public health protections, overturning one of the last major actions taken by the agency before President Biden took office.

The ruling marked a victory for environmental groups and public health advocates. Just two weeks before Biden’s inauguration, EPA finalized a rule requiring researchers to disclose the raw data involved in their public health studies before the agency could rely upon their conclusions.

The rule, which was made effective immediately, would assign less weight to studies built on medical histories and other confidential data from human subjects where the underlying information was not revealed. That sort of research — including dose-response studies, which evaluate how much a person’s exposure to a substance increases the risk of harm — have been used for decades to justify EPA regulations.

Navigating the transition: Key chemicals industry issues to watch in the Biden Administration

Environmental justice. Expect a Biden EPA to emphasize environmental justice in enforcement by leaning in more aggressively when known noncompliance is affecting an environmental justice community, increasing its use of the EJSCREEN screening and mapping tool as an enforcement targeting method, and increasing its release reporting and risk management enforcement in areas with environmental justice communities.

Beyond compliance settlements. Eexpect a return to the Obama EPA’s use of extra-regulatory requirements in settlements. These could include using elements of so-called Next Generation compliance developed by the Obama EPA, and importing regulatory requirements from other federal.

Storage tank and wastewater treatment systems. Expect a Biden EPA to be less solicitous of state enforcement solutions to excess emissions from storage tanks and water treatment systems at petrochemical production and storage facilities. 

Section 112(r) risk management program. Expect a Biden EPA to broaden somewhat the kinds of RMP cases it will be willing to bring, including cases where the applicability of an industry standard is not clear.

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