Democrat expresses concern about 'delay' of cancer-linked chemical regulation

Democrat expresses concern about 'delay' of cancer-linked chemical regulation
© Greg Nash

Sen. Tammy DuckworthLadda (Tammy) Tammy DuckworthSunday shows - Stimulus debate dominates Duckworth on whether 'sizable' amount of Trump supporters are racist: 'Of course not' Davis: My recommendation for vice president on Biden ticket MORE (D-Ill.) expressed concern Wednesday about what she described as a "delay" in the Federal Register publication of an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rule regulating a cancer-linked chemical.  

The EPA in May finalized a rule regulating leaks of the chemical, called ethylene oxide, from industrial equipment. Chronic exposure to ethylene oxide has been associated with cancer and neurotoxicity, and short-term exposure has been linked to lung injuries. 

However, Duckworth noted in a letter to EPA Administrator Andrew WheelerAndrew WheelerOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Latest Trump proposal on endangered species could limit future habitat, critics say | House-passed spending bill would block Pebble Mine construction | Interior sends 100K pages of documents to House EPA cancels subscription to news outlet dedicated to covering it OVERNIGHT ENERGY: EPA rule extends life of toxic coal ash ponds | Flint class action suit against Mich. officials can proceed, court rules | Senate Democrats introduce environmental justice bill MORE that the Federal Register (FR) has yet to publish the rule, which means it is not being enforced. 

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“FR publication is essential because it finalizes the rule so that regulated entities can be held to compliance standards,” she wrote. “Without finalization, the regulation is not revised as required under the Clean Air Act.”

“This delay is felt acutely,” Duckworth added.

She asked Wheeler for a list of rules that are awaiting publication as well as an explanation of how long their publication was delayed and why. 

An EPA spokesperson told The Hill in an email that the agency does not control the timing of rules issued in the Federal Register.

Miriam Vincent, an attorney at the Office of the Federal Register, said she couldn't comment on the specifics of the rule's progress, saying it was confidential. She said, however, that the agency is facing a backlog that's been worsened by an increase in prioritized "emergency" rules related to the coronavirus pandemic. 

"We're taking now several weeks to get to documents that are not flagged as emergencies," Vincent said. 

Around the time the agency finalized the regulation, Wheeler praised the action as underscoring the Trump administration's "commitment to addressing and reducing hazardous air pollutants."

However, environmentalists criticized the agency for choosing the less stringent of two options it had been considering.