Energy & Environment

EPA sued for allegedly violating laws for approving new chemicals

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Environmental group Earthjustice sued the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Wednesday following an investigation that found the agency was fast-tracking approval for various chemicals

The investigation, done alongside the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) “found that EPA is approving hundreds of new chemicals each year without giving the public access to important information or opportunities to provide input.”

The lawsuit based on the report hinges on the Toxic Substances Control Act, or TSCA, which require the EPA to announce new applications for chemicals ranging from pesticides to new forms of non-stick chemicals.

But the groups found that in one out of every six applications, the EPA did not publish the notice until after the chemical was already approved, preventing the public from weighing in with concerns.

“Unleashing chemicals into the market without proper vetting is like opening Pandora’s box,” the groups said in a release. 

“EPA must stop hiding key information about the chemicals it is reviewing and put public health above the desires of the chemical industry.”  

The suit, filed on behalf of groups including the Sierra Club and the Natural Resource Defense Council, follows threats of litigation last year.

EPA met with the groups and made some changes to its policy, but Earthjustice argues those moves are still insufficient. 

Environmental groups argue the agency is allowing chemical companies to conceal too much of their own research as confidential business information, keeping it from being released to the public with the rest of the application.

The suit pushes for EPA to do more auditing of company applications to ensure the information meets standards to be kept confidential.

An EPA spokesman said the agency had hoped working with the environmental groups would have led to a different outcome.

“It is important to note that EPA experts met for months with these groups after they noticed their intent to sue on September 3, 2019 in effort to improve transparency and have worked with them in good faith. Nevertheless, the groups filed the same lawsuit they noticed six months ago.  If these groups had a genuine interest in transparency they would continue to work with EPA to implement improvements instead of filing lawsuits,” the agency said in an email to The Hill. 

Updated at 2:48 p.m. on 3/19/20.

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