Energy & Environment

White House pushed EPA for looser ‘forever chemical’ regulation: documents

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The White House pushed the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to loosen a potential regulation regarding a class of cancer-linked chemicals, according to documents released by Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.). 

The chemicals, called PFAS, are also sometimes referred to as “forever chemicals” because of their persistence in both the environment and the human body. They can be found in a variety of products including raincoats, cookware and firefighting foam. 

The documents released by Carper’s office show that White House officials had pressured the EPA to make certain changes to a proposed rule that the agency was developing. Among the changes the White House had wanted in the now published proposal are inclusion of a “safe harbor” for importers of the chemical who may be unaware of the regulation and asking about a threshold level that would trigger it. 

Carper, in a letter to EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler, urged the official “to support the legal and scientific views of the EPA experts who have sought to promulgate these important protections for years, and resist the involvement of … political officials who seek to weaken them.”

The senator particularly singled out Nancy Beck, a White House official with a background in the chemical industry who has been nominated to lead the Consumer Product Safety Commission. 

The administration has stressed, however, that these actions were part of an ordinary review process. 

An EPA spokesperson told The Hill in a statement that the agency is often required to participate in an interagency review process that is led by the White House’s Office of Management and Budget when proposing a new rule. 

“This collaboration is important as other agencies may have information and expertise that could be useful to EPA. Through this process it is routine for the agency to receive input from stakeholders, including our federal partners. EPA then reviews comments and may revisit or revise proposed decisions based on that feedback,” the spokesperson said. 

A senior administration official separately told The Hill in an email  that interagency collaboration “is important as there are a number of other agencies that have information and expertise that will undoubtedly be useful to EPA.”

Meanwhile, a coalition of states has said that the EPA should increase its restrictions on PFAS chemicals.

Tags Andrew Wheeler Tom Carper

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