All 10 Democratic members of the Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Environment wrote to Committee Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR) and Environment Subcommittee Chairman John Shimkus (R-IL) today renewing a request for the Chairmen to schedule a hearing on the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) implementation of the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act, which made substantial revisions to the Toxic Substance Control Act (TSCA). This is the fourth request Committee Democrats have made for hearings to be held on EPA’s management of toxic chemicals.
“It is now well over a year since our original request and two years since Toxic Substance Control Act (TSCA) reform legislation was signed into law, and it is completely unacceptable that the Committee has yet to hold a single hearing on implementation of this critically important public health program,” the Democrats wrote to Chairmen Walden and Shimkus. “The law made substantial revisions to TSCA to strengthen public health protections, but we remain concerned that EPA’s implementation of the reformed TSCA program contradicts the new law’s language and intent and undermines public confidence in the program.”
The Democrats are concerned that EPA is ignoring its own scientific evidence and the recommendations of its experienced career staff regarding TSCA implementation at the expense of public health. They point to a recent report from the New York Times that found EPA officials proposed a rulemaking to review applications for use of asbestos in consumer products over the objections of EPA attorneys and scientists. Each year, 15,000 Americans die from asbestos-related diseases such as mesothelioma, and now EPA’s rulemaking has created a loophole that allows legacy asbestos uses to be revived without requiring agency review or approval. As a result, Uralasbest, a Russian company that is one of the world’s largest asbestos producers, posted a message of support for President Trump on their official Facebook page with photos of packed asbestos material adorned with the face of Trump and the text, “Approved by Donald Trump, 45th President of the United States.”
In addition, the Democrats also charge that EPA has abandoned its statutory mandate to review all new and existing chemicals known or foreseeable uses and exposure putting human health and the environment at risk. Such action could result in an incomplete evaluation of the health and environmental risk of a number of extremely toxic chemicals, including asbestos, perchloroethylene (PERC), methylene chloride, and trichloroethylene (TCE).
“We are extremely concerned that EPA’s increasingly limited review of chemical risk amounts to little more than a rubber-stamping process and does not reflect the higher level of scrutiny for new chemicals required by the TSCA reform law,” the Democrats continued.
The Democrats also remain troubled that EPA political appointees seem to be prioritizing manufacturers’ economic interest over the health of the American public. Dr. Nancy Beck, who has been entrusted with implementing the new TSCA law despite her previous work experience and close relationship with the chemical industry, reportedly held frequent meetings with her former employer and industry groups to discuss the chemical risk evaluation process. Dr. Beck subsequently made extensive modifications to the final rule on the procedures for chemical risk evaluation, in many cases inserting language identical to comments submitted to EPA by her former employer, the American Chemistry Council.
The letter was signed by Ranking Member Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), Environment Subcommittee Ranking Member Paul Tonko (D-NY), Raul Ruiz (D-CA), Scott Peters (D-CA), Gene Green (D-TX), Diana DeGette (D-CO), Jerry McNerney (D-CA), Tony Cardenas (D-CA), Debbie Dingell (D-MI), and Doris Matsui (D-CA).
The letter is available HERE