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
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 September 22, 2021, as part of Pollution Prevention Week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recognized 33 Safer Choice Partner of the Year award winners for their achievements in design, manufacture, selection, and use of products with safer chemicals. Michal Freedhoff, Assistant Administrator for EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention (OCSPP), commented on the winners’ achievements, stating: “Today, we recognize the leadership and accomplishments of Safer Choice partners and stakeholders for their work helping consumers and commercial buyers identify products with safer chemical ingredients, without sacrificing quality or performance. Additionally, I’m excited to see that the work done by many of this year’s awardees support the Biden-Harris Administration’s goals of addressing climate change and advancing environmental justice.”
This year, award applicants were encouraged to demonstrate how their work with safer chemistry bolsters resilience to the impacts of climate change, promotes environmental justice, and results in cleaner air or water. In the upcoming year, EPA hopes to build on award winners’ work by expanding the Safer Choice program to make products containing safer chemicals increasingly available to underserved communities. Winners of this year’s award include small- and medium-sized companies, women-owned companies, state and local governments, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and associations.
By Lynn L. Bergeson
On September 15, 2021, the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works held a hearing on several U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) nominees, including Amanda Howe, nominated for Assistant Administrator for Mission Support, and David Uhlmann, nominated for Assistant Administrator for Enforcement and Compliance Assurance.
Amanda Howe has a long history of public service, including such roles as the Chief Operating Officer for the now-Vice President, Kamala Harris, for the People Presidential Campaign, Acting Chief of Staff for New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, Assistant Secretary of Commerce and Trade for Virginia’s then-Governor Mark R. Warner (D), and lead planner of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Phillip’s royal visit to Virginia for then-Governor Tim Kaine (D). Ms. Howe highlighted her extensive career in operations and management during her opening statements to the Committee, noting that if confirmed, she will bring her personal motto of “go for the good” to her position at EPA.
David Uhlmann is the current Director of the Environmental Policy and Law Program at the University of Michigan Law. Prior to academia, Mr. Uhlmann spent 17 years as a federal prosecutor, including seven years with the U.S. Department of Justice’s Environmental Crimes section. During his opening statement, Mr. Uhlmann stressed that his time in academia has strengthened his belief in promoting environmental advocacy, noting that he believes that those companies that display ethics, integrity, and environmental stewardship should not be at a competitive disadvantage to those that do not.
Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Ranking Member of the Committee, asked Ms. Howe how she would transition from the political sphere into governmental management, given President Biden’s initiative to bolster EPA staff. Ms. Howe reiterated her operations management background, noting that throughout her career in public service, she has managed large and complex operations and can think of no better way to serve the public than through the EPA. Senator Capito then asked Mr. Uhlmann about a paper he had written for the Obama Administration. The paper addressed the Clean Energy Standard and carbon taxing, but excluded carbon capture and nuclear energy. Senator Capito questioned how Mr. Uhlmann’s stance on the Clean Energy Standard would align with his EPA nominated role. Mr. Uhlmann responded that while he felt that we need to be seriously addressing climate change, it is the role of Congress to decide how. He stated that his role within EPA would be to help companies comply with any laws that Congress passes and any regulations promulgated by EPA, as well as to bring enforcement actions against companies that violate those laws.
Senator Cynthia Lummis (R-WY) questioned Mr. Uhlmann about his stance on a recent series of White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council recommendations that stated that federal support for technologies such as carbon capture, utilization, and storage were not suitable for Environmental Justice (EJ) communities. Mr. Uhlmann responded that both EJ communities and rural communities have been left behind, and that if confirmed, he would work with states to ensure both communities had access to clean air and water. Senator Lummis and Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD) each probed Mr. Uhlmann about respective projects that their states were working on with EPA, and asked for a commitment from Mr. Uhlmann that those projects would not go to the wayside. Mr. Uhlmann responded that he believed strongly in a state and federal partnership and that he would work to strengthen that relationship.
Closing the nominations hearing, Committee Chair Thomas Carper (D-DE) asked each nominee a series of questions, including his standard “what question were you not asked that you wish you had been?” Senator Carper posed three questions to Ms. Howe: what attributes of Governor Mark Warner and Governor Tim Kaine did you witness and learn during your time as a public servant; how would you plan on safely bringing the EPA workforce back into the office; and given EPA’s prior cybersecurity breaches, how would you lead EPA’s cybersecurity efforts? Ms. Howe reflected on her time serving each Governor and noted that Mark Warner had the ability to pay attention to detail while still maintaining an eye on the big picture. In her role as EPA Assistant Administrator for Mission Support, she would work to incorporate these lessons by building strong relationships regardless of political party, so that common ground can be found for the common good. From Tim Kaine, Ms. Howe observed that kindness is a strength, and that challenges should be approached with openness, kindness, and integrity.
Ms. Howe expressed concern for the EPA workforce and the challenges they face in keeping themselves and their families safe during Covid. When considering bringing EPA staff back to the office, Ms. Howe stressed the importance of following the science and following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines. In considering how to move forward, Ms. Howe stated she would use EPA as the resource that it is and consult with staff to understand what aspects of teleworking have been successful. She noted that people’s lives have changed, and reintegrating back to the office will take empathy, openness, and a willingness to listen to concerns. In her response to cybersecurity concerns, Ms. Howe stated that this is an issue that has been and will continue to be a top priority for Mission Support. If confirmed, she plans to work directly with the EPA’s Chief Information Officer (CIO) and Chief Operating Officer (COO) to identify and sharpen cybersecurity. She also noted that she has no reservations in speaking openly with Congress and to ask for the resources and tools that she needs to tighten EPA cybersecurity measures. The question Ms. Howe would have liked to be asked was “how do you feel about your nomination to the role of Assistant Administrator for Mission Support?” She feels excited. She is looking forward to recruiting new staff to EPA and feels that it is a vibrant and exciting place to work.
Senator Carper’s closing questions to Mr. Uhlmann included: what in your extensive experience prosecuting environmental crimes and enforcement actions can you bring to this position in helping EPA identify and prevent violations before they occur; and what question were you not asked that you wish you had been? Mr. Uhlmann discussed his long history as a prosecutor working with the career staff of EPA in trials, as well as his collaborative work alongside EPA civil attorneys. Mr. Uhlmann emphasized his deep appreciation for the career staff at EPA, highlighting that unlike his predecessors, he is not new to this area and can “hit the ground running.” Overall, Mr. Uhlmann focused on the need for response. The most salient lesson he observed from his time as a prosecutor is that pollution has real consequences on the lives of Americans and their communities.
Mr. Uhlmann would have liked to have been asked what his top priorities would be as Assistant Administrator for Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. He focused on the threat of climate change and the effects that environmental harms have on communities, stating that these concerns should be at the root of enforcement and compliance actions. He went on to address staffing issues within EPA enforcement and compliance regional offices, and the advocacy he would engage in to procure the necessary resources to strengthen those offices. Maintaining that we cannot regulate our way out of every environmental problem, Mr. Uhlmann focused on the importance of promoting ethics, integrity, and environmental stewardship within the business community to help solve these problems. Rounding out his list of priorities, Mr. Uhlmann stated that there is no room for politics in enforcement, rather it is about the law and the facts.
The hearing proceeded with a jovial atmosphere and at times felt almost routine in nature. There were no real surprises or hard hitting questions posed to either nominee. Senator Mark Kelly (D-AZ) posed only one question to Mr. Uhlmann, centered on the niche issue of Clean Air Act (CAA) violations for modifying street vehicle emissions systems to convert them to racing vehicles. Senator Kelly expressed concern over how this statutory prohibition hampered the sport of street racing in Arizona. Mr. Uhlmann pivoted to his work on the VW emissions case and the environmental consequences of that scandal, but did not commit to a stance on Senator Kelly’s proposed amendments to the CAA. The line of questioning then diverted towards Senator Kelly’s wife, Gabby Gifford, and her love of street motorcycle racing. The hearing itself incorporated a decent amount of story-telling on behalf of the Committee members, adding to a sense of collegiality. Throughout the hearing, both nominees emanated passion for their possible future roles within EPA and focused on collaboration as a necessary element moving forward.
By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced on August 10, 2021, that it added 36 chemicals to the Safer Chemical Ingredients List (SCIL). EPA states that the SCIL “is a living list of chemicals, by functional-use class, that EPA’s Safer Choice program has evaluated and determined meet Safer Choice criteria.” Listed chemicals “are among the safest for their functional use.” According to EPA, the SCIL is a “critical resource” that can be used by many different stakeholders, including:
- Product manufacturers that use the SCIL to help them make high-functioning products that contain safer ingredients;
- Chemical manufacturers that use the SCIL to promote the safer chemicals they manufacture;
- Retailers that use the SCIL to help shape their sustainability programs; and
- Environmental and health advocates that use the SCIL to support their work with industry to encourage the use of the safest possible chemistry.
EPA’s Safer Choice program certifies products containing ingredients that have met the program’s human health and environmental safety criteria. Companies can use the Safer Choice label on products that meet the Safer Choice Standard. EPA’s website contains a complete list of Safer Choice-certified products. EPA states that in the coming year, it hopes to expand the Safer Choice program “to make products containing safer chemicals increasingly available to underserved communities, including communities of color and low-income communities.”
By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
On June 24, 2021, a “unique and broad group” of chemical manufacturers, brand owners, environmental non-governmental organizations (NGO), states, and municipalities sent a letter to the leaders of the House and Senate Appropriations Subcommittees on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies to express their “strong support” for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Safer Choice Program and to encourage that the program be funded fully. The letter asks that the following language be included in the report:
The Committee supports the Safer Choice program and directs that the program be funded and operated at least at levels consistent with Fiscal Year 2014, adjusted for inflation.
According to the letter, in the last quarter of 2020, EPA reorganized the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention (OCSPP), dissolving the Safer Choice branch and reassigning most staff to the areas of OCSPP. The letter states that “[a]s a result, the program is now severely under-resourced with approximately four full-time staff.” The Biden-Harris EPA has taken steps to restore the program, but EPA still faces resource constraints.
The letter describes how companies across the value chain use the Safer Choice brand to advance their individual safer chemical initiatives. Chemical manufacturers invested in developing safer chemicals now listed on the Safer Choice’s Safer Chemicals Ingredients List (SCIL). Brand owners and product manufacturers have reformulated products using the SCIL to obtain Safer Choice certification. Major retailers specify the Safer Choice label as a verifiable way to meet corporate goals laid out in public-facing chemicals policies.
According to the letter, the Safer Choice Program also provides value to entities outside of the supply chain. States and municipalities rely on the Safer Choice Program “because it is the only third-party program that requires all ingredients to be screened for hazards instead of simply using a restricted substances list.” NGOs and consumers “find significant value in an authoritative government program that can be trusted to vet safer chemicals and products.”
By Lynn L. Bergeson
On June 15, 2021, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced and recognized the winners of the 2021 Green Chemistry Challenge Awards. According to EPA’s announcement, this year’s winners have developed new and innovative green chemistry technologies that provide solutions to significant environmental challenges and spur innovation. The announcement was made during the American Chemical Society (ACS) Green Chemistry & Engineering Conference. Co-sponsored by EPA and ACS, the Green Chemistry Challenge Awards celebrated its 25th anniversary this year. Further details are available here.
By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has prepared a strategic plan for the Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics (OPPT) for fiscal years (FY) 2021-2023. The strategic plan outlines how OPPT intends to fulfill its obligations under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA), the Pollution Prevention Act (PPA), and related EPA policies and procedures “in ways that value science, protect people and the environment, and increase transparency for stakeholders and the general public.” The strategic plan includes new vision, mission, and values statements for OPPT. Priority areas include:
- New Chemicals: The New Chemicals Program manages potential risks to human health and the environment from chemicals new to the marketplace. The program identifies conditions to be placed on the use of new chemicals before they enter into commerce;
- Existing Chemicals: TSCA requires EPA to evaluate the safety of existing chemicals through prioritization, risk evaluation, and risk management. Ensuring the safety of existing chemicals requires collecting and analyzing information about the chemicals, developing additional information, conducting analyses to evaluate risk, and taking regulatory action on proper conditions of use for each chemical;
- Pollution Prevention/Safer Choice/Toxics Release Inventory (TRI): OPPT supports a suite of programs that are intended to reduce, eliminate, or prevent pollution at its source as an alternative to pollution control and waste disposal. Safer Choice helps consumers, businesses, and purchasers find products that contain ingredients that are safer for human health and the environment. The TRI Program collects information to track industry progress in reducing waste generation and moving toward safer waste management alternatives;
- Transparency and Stakeholder Engagement: OPPT is committed to providing the public with the information needed to understand EPA’s chemical evaluations. It continually seeks more productive means of engaging with interested stakeholders through public comment during rulemaking, Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA) workgroups, and other means;
- Human Capital: OPPT strives to provide a healthy and supportive working environment, support for career development, and communication on issues that are important to its colleagues. It closely collaborates with its partners in the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention’s (OCSPP) Office of Program Support to ensure that the basics of being an OPPT employee, such as timekeeping, personnel actions, and equipment, are easy to manage; and
- Efficiency and Enabling Tools: OPPT’s priority areas depend on a wide range of data from manufacturers, researchers, and the public. Its employees need to know how to work with these data and to have access to tools that facilitate access to and analysis of these data. OPPT is committed to increasing its ability to manage projects effectively through a unified approach that ensures timely deliverables, increases its ability to track its work, and simplifies its processes.