We’re Suing the Trump Administration Over Chemical Safety
It was just over a year ago that a landmark step in chemical-safety regulation came, when Congress approved legislation to strengthen federal regulation of toxic chemicals. But although proposed rules for implementing the new requirements were issued for comment, they weren’t finalized before President Obama left office.
Then came the Trump Administration. Trump’s “new” Environmental Protection Agency has now issued final rules that are dramatically weaker. These rules determine how the agency will regulate toxic chemicals found in products, building materials, and workplaces as well as in drinking water and food.
That’s why the Environmental Health Strategy Center has joined two lawsuits challenging the EPA.
Earthjustice, the nation’s largest nonprofit environmental law organization, is representing the Strategy Center as well as organizations advocating for scientists, consumers, workers, Alaska Natives, people from low-income communities of color, and parents and teachers of children with learning disabilities.
Earthjustice filed the complaint Friday in federal court in San Francisco.
Specifically, the lawsuits challenge two EPA regulations that set ground rules for how the EPA will prioritize chemicals for safety review and evaluate the risks of those chemicals under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). The rules will play a crucial role in whether the EPA fulfills its mission of protecting families and workers across the country from chemical risks or allows chemicals known to harm human health, like asbestos, to get a free pass.
“Obviously, it’s total exposure to a chemical, from all sources combined, that most endangers the health of pregnant women, children, and workers. Yet, the Trump EPA deliberately bypassed the law’s clear requirement that safety assessments be based on ALL uses of a chemical,” said Mike Belliveau, executive director of the Environmental Health Strategy Center.
“By allowing some or even most chemical uses to be ignored, the EPA proposes to do the very thing the new law was intended to halt: allow the chemical industry to continue to produce and sell toxic chemicals that pose unacceptable risks to human health,” Belliveau said.
For more than a decade, the Strategy Center was at the forefront of legislative efforts to achieve meaningful reform of TSCA to better protect the public from the multiple health hazards of toxic chemicals in products for our children and families.
In 2016, Congress overhauled TSCA for the first time in 40 years, requiring the EPA to conduct comprehensive risk evaluations of chemicals without regard to cost, and with special attention to the risks posed to vulnerable populations.
One of the key EPA officials charged with overseeing the drafting of the updated rules is Dr. Nancy Beck, a former high-level official in the leading chemical-industry trade association. To state the obvious, Beck’s appointment is riddled with potential conflicts of interest. Under her leadership, the final rules now cater to the desires of the chemical industry at the expense of the health of children and families.
“After Congress took bipartisan action to make desperately needed updates to our chemical safety laws, the Trump Administration has turned back the clock, leaving families and workers at risk,” said Eve Gartner, an attorney at Earthjustice.
“The EPA’s newly adopted rules – overseen by a former high-level chemical industry official with head-spinning conflicts of interest – will leave children, communities and workers vulnerable to dangerous chemicals,” Gartner continued. “This lawsuit is about one thing: holding the Trump EPA to the letter of the law and ensuring it fulfills its mandate to protect the public.”
The suits, technically referred to as “Petitions for Review,” ask the court to determine if the EPA rules were crafted in accordance with the law’s requirements and if the EPA followed the legal requirements for promulgation of new regulations.
The two rules in question are the “Procedures for Prioritization of Chemicals for Risk Evaluation Under the Toxic Substances Control Act,” and the “Procedures for Chemical Risk Evaluation Under the Amended Toxic Substances Control Act.”
In addition to the Strategy Center, the other organizations joining the suit are WE ACT for Environmental Justice, Learning Disabilities Association of America, United Steelworkers, Alaska Community Action on Toxics, the Union of Concerned Scientists, Environmental Working Group, Safer Chemicals Healthy Families, and Sierra Club.