By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Environment and Climate Change will hold a hearing on October 27, 2021, on “TSCA and Public Health: Fulfilling the Promise of the Lautenberg Act.” According to the October 20, 2021, press release issued by the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, Representatives Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), Chair of the Committee, and Paul Tonko (D-NY), Chair of the Subcommittee, stated that the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act (Lautenberg Act) made “crucial” reforms to the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) “that improve how the federal government protects Americans from dangerous chemicals, and now we must ensure those reforms are implemented effectively and honestly.” Pallone and Tonko stated that during the previous administration, “chemical risk evaluations were skewed in favor of industry to the detriment of workers and communities. We must protect consumers from exposure to toxic substances and ensure the Environmental Protection Agency is using the tools Congress granted it to protect public health.” The Subcommittee will discuss the implementation of the Lautenberg Act and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) “efforts to get TSCA back on track.”
By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
On October 1, 2021, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the availability of the Draft FY 2022-2026 EPA Strategic Plan. 86 Fed. Reg. 54448. The draft Strategic Plan communicates EPA’s priorities and provides the roadmap for achieving its mission to protect human health and the environment. The draft Strategic Plan outlines objectives within the following strategic goals:
- Goal 1: Tackle the Climate Crisis;
- Goal 2: Take Decisive Action to Advance Environmental Justice and Civil Rights;
- Goal 3: Enforce Environmental Laws and Ensure Compliance;
- Goal 4: Ensure Clean and Healthy Air for All Communities;
- Goal 5: Ensure Clean and Safe Water for All Communities;
- Goal 6: Safeguard and Revitalize Communities; and
- Goal 7: Ensure Safety of Chemicals for People and the Environment.
Goal 7 includes two objectives. Objective 7.1, “Ensure Chemical and Pesticide Safety,” is intended to protect the health of families, communities, and ecosystems from the risks posed by chemicals and pesticides. It includes the following long-term goals:
- By September 30, 2026, complete at least eight High Priority Substance (HPS) Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) risk evaluations annually within statutory timelines compared with the fiscal year (FY) 2020 baseline of one;
- By September 30, 2026, review 90 percent of risk mitigation requirements for TSCA new chemical substances compared to the FY 2021 baseline of none;
- By September 30, 2026, renew 40 percent of expiring lead-based paint Renovation, Repair, and Painting (RRP) firm certifications within 30 days compared to the FY 2021 baseline of 36 percent;
- By September 30, 2026, complete 78 pesticide registration review cases;
- By September 30, 2026, consider the effects determinations or protections of federally threatened and endangered species for new active ingredients in 90 percent of the risk assessments supporting pesticide registration decisions for new active ingredients compared to the FY 2020 baseline of 50 percent;
- By September 30, 2026, consider the effects determinations or protections of federally threatened and endangered species in 50 percent of the risk assessments supporting pesticide registration review decisions compared to the FY 2020 baseline of 25 percent; and
- By September 30, 2026, support Agricultural Worker Protection Standard (WPS) pesticide safety training for 20,000 farmworkers annually compared with the FY 2018-2020 annual average baseline of 11,000.
Objective 7.2, “Promote Pollution Prevention,” is intended to encourage the adoption of pollution prevention and other stewardship practices that conserve natural resources, mitigate climate change, and promote environmental sustainability. It includes the following long-term goals:
- By September 30, 2026, reduce a total of 1.5 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent released attributed to EPA pollution prevention grants; and
- By September 30, 2026, EPA’s Safer Choice program will certify a total of 2,300 products compared to the FY 2021 baseline of 1,950 total certified products.
According to the notice, EPA is seeking comment from individual citizens, states, tribes, local governments, industry, the academic community, non-governmental organizations (NGO), and all other interested parties. Comments are due November 12, 2021. EPA states that it “anticipates the final Strategic Plan will be submitted to Congress in February 2022.”
By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention (OCSPP) announced on October 14, 2021, several actions intended to enhance scientific integrity, including establishing two internal science policy advisory councils, creating a new senior-level career position to serve as a science policy advisor to the Assistant Administrator, and making further improvements to policies and procedures. The announcement includes the following actions:
- New OCSPP Science Policy Council and New Science Policy Advisor Position: OCSPP is forming a new internal advisory group, the OCSPP Science Policy Council, to provide advisory support and recommendations on science policy and scientific integrity issues that arise within its Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics (OPPT) and Office of Pesticide Programs (OPP). The OCSPP Science Policy Council will be chaired by a science policy advisor, a newly created position. The science policy advisor will report to the OCSPP Assistant Administrator, provide guidance on emerging science policy and scientific integrity matters, and serve as the deputy scientific integrity official for OCSPP. OCSPP states that the OCSPP Science Policy Council will provide an advisory perspective on matters related to scientific integrity; identify scientific questions that are of broad interest within OCSPP for informal review and, as appropriate, recommend a process for further addressing them; and foster informal opportunities for scientific collaboration within OCSPP. Members chosen to address specific issues or questions will be selected based on their expertise and impartiality on the issue or question, and they may include EPA experts outside of OCSPP. OCSPP notes that the group is not intended to replace or otherwise interfere with EPA’s Scientific Integrity Policy, the Scientific Integrity Official’s role, or the Inspector General’s role.
- Strengthening New Chemical Safety Reviews: According to OCSPP, as part of its broader review of policies and procedures to ensure the program effectively implements the Biden Administration’s executive orders, other directives, and principles of scientific integrity, OCSPP’s New Chemicals Division (NCD) engaged in a top-to-bottom effort to catalogue, prioritize, and improve its standard operating procedures (SOP), decision making, and recordkeeping practices related to review and management of new chemicals under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). OCSPP states that to date, NCD has inventoried and reviewed over 100 different SOPs, guidances, and science policies, and prioritized those that NCD expects to be updated over the next year. Several policy changes have already been implemented, including stopping harmful new per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) from entering the market and procedures to strengthen the review of new chemicals and ensure worker safety.
- New Chemicals Advisory Committee: According to OCSPP, NCD has formed the New Chemicals Advisory Committee (NCAC) that, similar to other long-standing internal advisory bodies within OCSPP, will serve as an advisory body to review both scientific and science policy issues related to new chemical submissions subject to TSCA. If differing opinions cannot be resolved through the human health risk assessment process improvements described below, the NCAC and OCSPP Science Policy Council could provide additional opportunities for further consideration.
- Human Health Risk Assessment Process Improvements: According to OCSPP, NCD solicited feedback from staff and implemented important changes to its process for reviewing and issuing final human health risk assessments. The new process provides additional opportunities for resolution of differing scientific opinions and invites input to the decision-making process to be provided by EPA subject matter experts outside of NCD.
- Enhanced Recordkeeping Requirements: Proper documentation of decisions and of any differing scientific opinions of those decisions is a significant component of EPA’s Scientific Integrity Policy. OCSPP states that it has implemented some changes to its procedures to ensure improved documentation of decisions and is in the process of further review to identify additional improvements, if any, including for new chemicals human health risk assessments.
- Workplace Climate Assessment: In September 2021, with the support of an independent contractor, OCSPP launched a workplace climate assessment of the NCD to obtain feedback from employees and management about any potential workplace barriers and opportunities for organizational improvement. OCSPP states that this effort will expand to other parts of OCSPP over the coming months. OCSPP leadership will use the feedback collected to understand, evaluate, and, if necessary, make changes in its work practices and culture to promote collaboration and enhance the science used in its program decision making.
By Lynn L. Bergeson and Ligia Duarte Botelho, M.A.
On September 30, 2021, DOE announced the launch of a new prize that will award up to $2.5 million in cash prizes to ten groups and organizations that support entrepreneurship and innovation in historically underserved communities. The Inclusive Energy Innovation Prize acknowledges that underserved populations have been and continue to be more susceptible to the negative impact of climate change, global warming, and pollution. DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) and the office of Economic Impact and Diversity (ED), hope to improve disadvantaged communities’ access to clean energy innovation ecosystems and to opportunities in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). The prize supports the Biden-Harris Administration’s Justice40 Initiative to prioritize environmental and economic justice in the United States’ transition into a net-zero economy by 2050. The goals of the Prize are to:
- Enable clean energy and climate innovation at colleges and universities serving large populations of students that are underrepresented in STEM, Minority Serving Institutions (MSI), community colleges, and undergraduate institutions.
- Create and increase participation in clean energy and climate-smart job training and placement, including programs that target participation from:
- Underserved populations;
- Formerly incarcerated individuals; and
- Youth transitioning from foster care.
- Foster just and equitable clean energy deployment through grassroots innovation activities focused on community-centric networks and bottom-up solutions for sustainable development based on the needs of the communities involved.
- Identify and fund activities that will help bring awareness to DOE, federal, state, local government, or private funding in support of the Justice40 goals.
- Enable the development of replicable clean energy transitions that deliver just and equitable benefits to disadvantaged communities.
DOE and ED will distribute Inclusive Energy Innovation Prize funds in two phases. In Phase One, winners will receive an initial cash prize of $200,000 each, with an opportunity to receive additional awards, mentorship, and other services. Phase One winners will also be eligible for participation in Phase Two prizes. In Phase Two, up to three teams will receive cash prizes from a pool of $500,000.
Phase One applications may be submitted until 5:00 p.m. (EST) on February 25, 2022, with winner announcements in March 2022. Phase Two applications may be submitted beginning in March 2023. Information on how to apply is available here.
By Lynn L. Bergeson
On October 1, 2021, EPA announced a series of virtual meetings of the Board of Scientific Counselors (BOSC) Chemical Safety for Sustainability and Health and Environmental Risk Assessment (CSS HERA) Subcommittee to review recent progress and activities of the Chemical Safety Analytics (CSA) and Emerging Materials and Technologies (EMT) research areas. Meetings are open to the public, and EPA is accepting comments until November 3, 2021. Interested parties may also request the draft agenda or request to present at any of the meetings by November 3, 2021.
The initial meeting will be held over a two-day period via videoconference on November 4 and 5, 2021, from 12:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. (EDT). Registration is required by November 3, 2021. The following meetings are also scheduled:
- BOSC Deliberation Videoconference: November 18, 2021, from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. (EST) – Registration is required by November 17, 2021.
- Final BOSC Deliberation Videoconference: December 10, 2021, from 11: 00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. (EST) – Registration is required by December 9, 2021.
Meeting times are subject to change.
By Lynn L. Bergeson and Ligia Duarte Botelho, M.A.
On October 7, 2021, the California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) announced that the Green Ribbon Science Panel (GRSP) will hold a meeting from 12:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. (EDT) on November 5, 2021. The meeting will focus on microplastic research and policy.
GRSP was established to act as a resource for the implementation of California’s Green Chemistry Law. GRSP provides technical advice to the DTSC Director and the California Environmental Policy Council (CEPC) on scientific matters related to the development of policy recommendations and implementation strategies on green chemistry and chemicals through DTSC’s Safer Consumer Products (SCP) program. Additional topics covered by GRSP as the SCP program continues to expand include:
By Lynn L. Bergeson
The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) posted a WatchBlog item entitled “Can Chemical Recycling Reduce Plastic Pollution?” on October 5, 2021. The item looks at GAO’s September 2021 Science & Tech Spotlight: Advanced Plastic Recycling. According to GAO, chemical recycling could reduce the amount of plastic that ends up in landfills, potentially reducing the release of chemicals into the environment. Chemical recycling can produce high-quality raw materials, decreasing the demand for fossil fuels and other natural resources. GAO states that the obstacles to using chemical recycling include process and technology challenges, high startup and operating costs, and limited incentives for recycling innovation and investment. GAO notes that new plastics produced from fossil fuels are typically cheaper to produce than recycled plastics, in part due to transportation costs and limited recycling infrastructure, making recycled plastics less marketable. Key questions for policymakers include:
What steps could the federal government, states, and other stakeholders take to further incentivize chemical recycling rather than disposal? What are the potential benefits and challenges of these approaches?
What steps could policymakers take to support a transition toward a circular economy -- one in which products are not disposed of but are recycled for reuse including innovation -- and investment in manufacturing and recycling capacity?
What might policymakers do to promote advanced recycling technologies while also reducing the hazards associated with existing plastic production and recycling methods?
One issue that GAO fails to consider is the regulatory status of depolymerized plastic. Furthermore, making a polymer by depolymerizing plastic is, according to the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) nomenclature rules, different than the virgin polymer. These nomenclature complications will likely be a barrier to the commercialization of the closed-loop chemical recycling of plastics.
Lynn L. Bergeson, Managing Partner, Bergeson & Campbell, P.C. (B&C®), will present during the “Moving Towards ‘Cradle-to-Cradle’: Regulatory Drivers and Barriers in Reducing Waste and Achieving Sustainable Lifecycle Management and a Circular Economy” session on October 14, 2021, at 1:45 p.m. (EDT), at the American Bar Association’s (ABA) Section of Environment, Energy, and Resources (SEER) 29th Fall Conference.
By Lynn L. Bergeson
On October 19, 2021, the Environmental Law Institute (ELI) will honor Carol Browner's years of service as EPA Administrator with the Environmental Achievement Award. ELI gives this award annually during its award dinner to honor individuals and organizations for demonstrating outstanding commitment to environmental protection. Ms. Browner has overseen the coordination of environmental, energy, climate, transport, and related policies during her time in the U.S. federal government. Under her direction, EPA reauthorized the Safe Drinking Water Act and the Food Quality Protection Act, enacted stringent air pollution standards, and started EPA’s Brownfields Program. The Annual Award Ceremony will be held in person and virtually on Tuesday, October 19, 2021, at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, D.C. Bergeson & Campbell, P.C. (B&C®), and its affiliates are pleased to join ELI in celebrating Carol Browner and her visionary and transformative leadership of U.S. environmental policy. B&C is a proud sponsor of the 2021 Award Dinner.