In December 2018, an article in this blog flagged a petition for EPA rulemaking under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) that, if denied, had the potential to set up precedent-setting litigation on citizens’ ability to use the courts to require EPA action under TSCA. Now, nearly a year later, the scenario that article described is coming true. In a challenge to EPA’s denial of that petition, a federal district court is poised to decide what constitutes a petition for issuance of a new rule as opposed to one for amendment of an existing rule—and in the process, to decide when a court may cast aside deference to EPA and undertake its own evaluation independent of the Agency’s record and conclusions.
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In Michigan v. EPA, 135 S. Ct. 2699 (2015), the Supreme Court held that the cost of regulation is an essential factor that EPA must consider when deciding whether to regulate.  According to the Court, “[a]gencies have long treated cost as a centrally relevant factor when deciding whether to regulate.” In subsequent regulatory proceedings, however, EPA has offered different views as to what Michigan’s cost mandate means. 
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This summer, EPA sparked public outrage with its proposed “significant new use” rule, or SNUR, addressing certain commercial uses of asbestos. Publications criticized EPA for loosening its regulations to pave the way for asbestos to be reintroduced to the market, allowing asbestos-containing construction materials to be used in homes and other buildings again for the first time in decades. There’s just one issue: EPA’s proposed action does the opposite of what these critics claim.
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On May 9, the White House released its Spring 2018 update to EPA’s regulatory agenda. Agency watchers quickly dove into the document to check the status and timelines for high-profile rulemakings and gain insights on the Trump administration’s priorities. But aside from any revelations about the administration’s own initiatives, this latest document was also notable for showing just how much EPA’s regulatory agenda can be driven by forces outside of the executive branch. A substantial portion of the actions on EPA’s regulatory agenda are included because they are mandated by law and are subject to legally binding deadlines.
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Environmental and public-health groups have taken issue with the EPA’s rule establishing procedures for chemical risk evaluations under the revised Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), which allows the EPA to exclude certain conditions of use when assessing whether a chemical presents unreasonable risks. These groups fear the exclusions could provide a “loophole” allowing some chemical risks to go unaddressed. But putting those concerns aside, should companies affected by the rule actually want to take advantage of these exclusions? Are they really beneficial to regulated industries? Or do they risk undermining one of the primary goals that companies sought to gain by supporting TSCA reform—federal preemption of overlapping state restrictions?

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In a series of orders this week, the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit granted motions by EPA to pause cases challenging several Obama-era regulatory actions while the new administration reviews those rules. With those cases on hold, the dispute over the fate of those rules will move out of the courts and into the administrative process.
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In June 2016, Congress did something it had not done in over a quarter century: it enacted comprehensive, bipartisan revisions to a major environmental statute. More specifically, it substantially overhauled the Toxic Substances Control Act, or TSCA, a law that was first passed in 1976 and was widely considered to be in need of an update. The TSCA reform law, also known as the Lautenberg Act, expands EPA’s role in reviewing new chemical substances; gives EPA new authority to require testing of chemicals; and directs EPA to prioritize, evaluate and regulate the risks from existing chemicals. It also imposes strict deadlines on EPA for carrying out its new duties under TSCA.

And EPA has apparently taken these deadlines to heart.
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