Energy & Environment

EPA sued over decision not to regulate chemical linked to fetal brain damage

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An advocacy group on Thursday sued the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) over its decision not to regulate a chemical that has been linked to fetal and infant brain damage. 

The agency announced in June that it would not regulate the chemical perchlorate even though it estimated that up to 620,000 people could be drinking water with a concerning amount of the chemical. 

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) sued Thursday in an attempt to get the agency to withdraw its decision not to regulate the chemical, which is used in rocket fuel. 

“The agency should establish an enforceable drinking water standard for perchlorate that protects vulnerable people, especially our children,” said Erik Olson, the NRDC’s senior strategic director for its health and food, healthy people and thriving communities program.

“Since the current EPA management will not do so voluntarily, we are seeking relief from the courts to force the agency to comply with the law and to follow the scientific evidence,” Olson added in a blog post.

The EPA said in a July statement that perchlorate “does not meet the criteria for regulation as a drinking water contaminant” under the Safe Drinking Water Act and said in its decision that the number of people affected by perchlorate was too small to present a “meaningful opportunity for health risk reduction.”

EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler also cited regulations that are present in some states and localities that he said are “effectively and efficiently managing levels of perchlorate.”

The decision not to regulate the chemical follows a prior proposal to set a 56 parts per billion (ppb) standard for the chemical. This would have been stricter than the decision not to regulate, but still would have been significantly higher than the 15 ppb proposed under the Obama administration.

Standards set by some states have been even lower, with California setting a 6 ppb maximum and Massachusetts setting a 2 ppb maximum.

An EPA spokesperson didn’t immediately respond to The Hill’s request for comment on the lawsuit Thursday.

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