EPA wants to overhaul oil spill dispersant rules

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed a series of changes Tuesday to the standards governing chemical dispersants used in oil spills.

The EPA said the rules incorporate some of what officials learned in the 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico, in which responders used various dispersants both at and below water level.

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The standards concern toxicity testing requirements, the information manufacturers must supply to the EPA and the public and how toxicity must be monitored when the chemicals are used on spills.

“Our emergency officials need the best available science and safety information to make informed spill response decisions when evaluating the use of specific products on oil discharges,” Mathy Stanislaus, who oversees the EPA’s emergency response policies, said in a statement.

“Our proposed amendments incorporate scientific advances and lessons learned from the application of spill-mitigating substances in response to oil discharges and will help ensure that the emergency planners and responders are well-equipped to protect human health and the environment.”

A coalition of environmental groups praised the EPA’s action.

“We welcome the opportunity to review these much-needed revisions to an outdated and ineffective regulatory framework, and will continue to push for the safest and most effective use of these potentially toxic dispersants,” Hannah Chang, an attorney with Earthjustice, said in a statement.

Marc Yaggi, executive director of the Waterkeeper Alliance, said his group is “glad to see this proposed rule finally issued, and will closely evaluate its technical and legal merit to ensure it protects waterways, wildlife and water-dependent businesses.”

The EPA will soon publish the proposal in the Federal Register, kicking off a 90-day public comment period.