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By Lynn L. Bergeson and Christopher R. Bryant

On January 16, 2019, the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee held a hearing on the nomination of Andrew Wheeler to serve as Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  Mr. Wheeler currently serves as the Acting Administrator, having taken the reins of EPA after former Administrator Scott Pruitt resigned in July 2018.  An archived webcast of the hearing is available online.  In introducing Mr. Wheeler, Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), Chair of the EPW Committee, stated: “under Acting Administrator Wheeler’s leadership, the agency has taken a number of significant actions to protect our nation’s environment, while also supporting economic growth.  Acting Administrator Wheeler has led efforts to:  issue common-sense regulatory proposals, like the Affordable Clean Energy Rule, and the revised definition of ‘Waters of the United States’; implement this Committee’s 2016 bipartisan reform of the Toxic Substances Control Act [(TSCA)] in an effective and efficient manner; reduce lead exposure, including through the Federal Lead Action Plan; provide greater regulatory certainty to states, to Tribes, localities, and to the regulated community; and improve enforcement and compliance assistance.  Acting Administrator Wheeler is very well qualified to run the [EPA].”  Republicans on the EPW Committee were supportive of his nomination and actions while serving as the EPA Acting Administrator.  They noted with praise his deregulatory efforts, the repeal and replacement of the Obama-era Clean Power Plan, the proposed replacement of the Waters of the United States rule and the proposed repeal of the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards. 

Democrats on the EPW Committee, however, expressed their disapproval of Mr. Wheeler, as he faced sharp questions from them.  EPW Ranking Member Tom Carper (D-DE) expressed his concern that Mr. Wheeler failed “to moderate some of Scott Pruitt’s most environmentally destructive policies,” adding that “upon examination, Mr. Wheeler’s environmental policies appear to be almost as extreme as his predecessor’s.”  When questioned on his views on climate change by Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Mr. Wheeler admitted that he believed it was a “huge issue” that should be addressed internationally, but he stopped short of agreeing with it being “one of the greatest crises facing our planet.”  Despite the seeming Democratic opposition to his nomination, Mr. Wheeler is expected to be approved by the EPW Committee and, eventually, the Senate, and likely soon.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson, Charles M. Auer, and Margaret R. Graham

On January 14, 2019, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Vermont, the Vermont Public Interest Group; Safer Chemicals, Health Families; and two individuals (plaintiffs) followed up on their earlier notice of intent to sue and filed a complaint against Andrew Wheeler and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to compel EPA to perform its “mandatory duty” to “address the serious and imminent threat to human health presented by paint removal products containing methylene chloride.”  Plaintiffs bring the action under Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) Section 20(a) which states that “any person may commence a civil action … against the Administrator to compel the Administrator to perform any act or duty under this Act which is not discretionary.”  Plaintiffs allege that EPA has not performed its mandatory duty under TSCA Sections 6(a) and 7.  TSCA Section 6(a) gives EPA the authority to regulate substances that present “an unreasonable risk of injury to health or the environment” and TSCA Section 7 gives EPA the authority to commence civil actions for seizure and/or relief of “imminent hazards.”  Plaintiffs’ argument to direct EPA to ban methylene chloride is centered on the issue of risk to human health only, however, stating that it presents “an unreasonable risk to human health” as confirmed by EPA.  Under TSCA Section 20(b)(2), plaintiffs are required to submit a notice of intent to sue 60 days prior to filing a complaint which they did on October 31, 2018.

Background

On January 19, 2017, EPA issued a proposed rule under TSCA Section 6 to prohibit the manufacture (including import), processing, and distribution in commerce of methylene chloride for consumer and most types of commercial paint and coating removal (82 Fed. Reg. 7464).  EPA also proposed to prohibit the use of methylene chloride in these commercial uses; to require manufacturers (including importers), processors, and distributors, except for retailers, of methylene chloride for any use to provide downstream notification of these prohibitions throughout the supply chain; and to require recordkeeping.  EPA relied on a risk assessment of methylene chloride published in 2014, the scope of which EPA stated included “consumer and commercial paint and coating removal.”  The proposed rule stated that in the risk assessment, EPA identified risks from inhalation exposure including “neurological effects such as cognitive impairment, sensory impairment, dizziness, incapacitation, and loss of consciousness (leading to risks of falls, concussion, and other injuries)” and, based on EPA’s analysis of worker and consumer populations' exposures to methylene chloride in paint and coating removal, EPA proposed “a determination that methylene chloride and NMP in paint and coating removal present an unreasonable risk to human health.”  The comment period on the proposed rule was extended several times, ending in May 2017, and in September 2017 EPA held a workshop to help inform EPA’s understanding of methylene chloride use in furniture refinishing. 

No further action was taken to issue the rule in final, however, until December 21, 2018, when EPA sent the final rule to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for review.  On the same day, EPA also sent another rule to OMB for review titled “Methylene Chloride; Commercial Paint and Coating Removal Training, Certification and Limited Access Program,” which has not previously been included in EPA’s Regulatory Agenda; very little is known about this rule.  Plaintiffs do not refer to it in the complaint but there is speculation, based on its title, that this second rule may allow for some commercial uses of methylene chloride.

Commentary

We recall the lawsuit filed by the Natural Resources Defense Counsel (NRDC) in 2018 challenging EPA’s draft New Chemicals Decision-Making Framework document as a final rule.  The current action further reflects the commitment of detractors of EPA to use the courts and every other means available to oppose the Administration’s TSCA implementation efforts.  Whether and when this court will respond is unclear.  What is clear is that the case will be closely watched, as the outcome will be an important signal to the TSCA stakeholder community regarding the utility of TSCA Section 20(a)(2) to force non-discretionary EPA actions that the Administration may be disinclined to take. 


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson, Christopher R. Bryant, and Margaret R. Graham

Following through on a commitment he made in November 2018, President Trump on January 9, 2019, formally nominated Andrew Wheeler to serve as the Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  Mr. Wheeler has served as EPA’s Acting Administrator since the resignation of Scott Pruitt in July 2018.  Mr. Wheeler previously worked in the law firm of Faegre Baker Daniels and was chief counsel to the Senate’s Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee.  Before his time at the Senate EPW Committee, Mr. Wheeler served in a similar capacity for six years for the Subcommittee on Clean Air, Climate Change, Wetlands, and Nuclear Safety.  Mr. Wheeler completed his law degree at Washington University in St. Louis, his MBA at George Mason University, and his undergraduate work at Case Western Reserve University in English and Biology.  Mr. Wheeler’s confirmation hearing in front of the Senate EPW Committee is scheduled for 10:00 a.m. (EST) on January 16, 2019.  It will be webcast on the EPW Committee website.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson, Christopher R. Bryant, and Margaret R. Graham

In the last hours of the 115th Congress, the Senate on January 2, 2019, approved the nominations of three individuals to serve in key environmental posts: 

  1. Alexandra Dapolito Dunn -- EPA Toxics Office:  The Senate approved the nomination of Alexandra Dunn to serve as the Assistant Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention (OCSPP).  Ms. Dunn had been serving as the administrator for EPA Region 1.  She previously was executive director and general counsel for the Environmental Council of the States (ECOS).  Prior to joining ECOS, Ms. Dunn served as executive director and general counsel for the Association of Clean Water Administrators.  Ms. Dunn also has extensive experience in environmental education, having served as dean of Environmental Law Programs at the Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University.  In addition, she has taught at the Columbus School of Law, Catholic University of America, and, most recently, as an adjunct associate professor of law at the American University’s Washington College of Law.  Ms. Dunn received a B.A. in political science from James Madison University and a J.D. from the Columbus School of Law.  More information on Ms. Dunn’s confirmation hearing is available in our blog item Senate EPW Committee Holds Hearing on Nomination of Alexandra Dunn to Lead OCSPP.
  2. Mary Neumayr -- CEQ: The Senate also approved the nomination of Mary Neumayr to head the White House’s Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ).  Ms. Neumayr currently serves as chief of staff for the CEQ.  Prior to joining CEQ in March of 2017, she served in a variety of positions with the Committee on Energy and Commerce in the U.S. House of Representatives, including Deputy Chief Counsel, energy and environment in 2017; Senior Energy Counsel from 2011 to 2017; and Counsel from 2009 to 2010.  Ms. Neumayr also served as Deputy Counsel for environment and nuclear programs at the U.S. Department of Energy from 2006 to 2009, and Counsel to the Assistant Attorney General for the environment and natural resources division at the U.S. Department of Justice from 2003 to 2006.  Prior to her government service, Ms. Neumayr was in private legal practice from 1989 to 2003.  She received her B.A. from Thomas Aquinas College and her J.D. from the University of California, Hastings College of the Law.
  3. Kelvin Droegemeier -- OSTP:  Finally, the Senate also approved Kelvin Droegemeier to serve as the director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP).  A meteorologist from the University of Oklahoma, Mr. Droegemeier previously served as Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin’s secretary of science and technology.  He was also previously on the National Science Board for 12 years during the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations.

 

By Richard E. Engler, Ph.D. and Margaret R. Graham

As the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is currently closed due to the lapse in appropriations, EPA has ceased all work reviewing new and existing chemicals under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).  Regarding new chemicals, although the Central Data Exchange (CDX) may still accept submissions, EPA will not process any information submitted via CDX until EPA reopens and it is not clear how EPA will set “Day 1” for TSCA Section 5 notices submitted during the shutdown.  

We are unaware of EPA publishing a formal notice that it is suspending the review period of new chemical notices, but EPA will not be making any determinations on such notices during the shutdown.  Submitters should continue to submit any required information (e.g., Notices of Commencement) even though EPA will not process or review such submissions. 

EPA actions on existing chemicals (including risk evaluations and publication of the updated TSCA Inventory with active/inactive status) will be delayed.  As previously reported, the first preparatory meeting on the Colour Index (C.I.) Pigment Violet 29 risk evaluation (scheduled for January 8, 2019) will be cancelled if the shutdown continues through January 4, 2019, at 5:00 p.m., which appears probable.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Margaret R. Graham

On December 31, 2018, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), even though they had already shut down due to funding issues, announced that if the government shutdown continues through 5:00 p.m. (EST) January 4, 2019, the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) Science Advisory Committee on Chemicals’ (SACC) January 8, 2019, Preparatory Virtual Meeting for the January 29 through February 1, 2019, meeting on Colour Index (C.I.) Pigment Violet 29 will be cancelled, and discussion of charge questions will be folded into the face-to-face meeting scheduled for January 29 through February 1, 2019.  Further, if the shutdown continues through 5:00 p.m. (EST) January 11, 2019, the TSCA SACC’s January 29 through February 1, 2019, Peer Review of the draft risk evaluation for C.I. Pigment Violet 29 will be postponed.  More information on the draft risk evaluation of C.I. Pigment Violet 29 is available in our memorandum EPA Publishes First Draft TSCA Chemical Risk Evaluation.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson, Susan M. Kirsch, and Margaret R. Graham

On November 29, 2018, the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW) held a hearing on the nomination of Alexandra Dapolito Dunn to be the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Assistant Administrator (AA) for EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention (OCSPP).  The hearing was webcast and is available on the EPW Committee website.

In a rare sharing of bipartisan support for a Trump Administration nominee, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) introduced Ms. Dunn, stating “Ms. Dunn has a deep passion for working with communities, for environmental justice, and for leveraging the expertise of nongovernmental organizations.”  Senator Tom Carper (D-DE) stated he was encouraged by her plans for the office.  Ms. Dunn assured lawmakers that, if confirmed, she will “commit to implementing the law, following the law, and bringing all the provisions of the law to full effect.”  Dunn also emphasized her intention, if confirmed, to leverage the experience and expertise of EPA career staff, including establishing “open door” hours dedicated to connecting with career staff.  Dunn’s written testimony is available on the EPW Committee website.  Senators may submit additional questions for the record (QFR) through November 29, 2018, for Ms. Dunn’s response by December 3, 2018.  It is being reported that Ms. Dunn could be confirmed as early as next week assuming there are no objections.

Ms. Dunn has been serving as the Regional Administrator for EPA’s New England Region (Region 1) since January of this year.  Prior to joining EPA, Ms. Dunn served as Executive Director and General Counsel for the Environmental Council of the States (ECOS), a national nonprofit, nonpartisan organization committed to helping state agencies improve environment outcomes for Americans.  More information on Ms. Dunn’s experience and accolades is available in EPA’s press release announcing her nomination.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Margaret R. Graham

On November 26, 2018, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention (OCSPP) announced that Lek Kadeli joined OCSPP’s Immediate Office as Acting Deputy Assistant Administrator (AA) (Management).  EPA states that Lek has extensive experience managing and supporting a wide range of environmental and human health related programs.  Lek has worked at EPA previously; for eight years he was the Principal Deputy AA in EPA’s Office of Research of Development (ORD), serving several periods during that time as ORD’s Acting AA.  Lek has also served as Director for ORD’s Office of Resource Management and Administration; Chief of ORD’s Resources Planning and Execution Staff; Office of International Activities Senior Budget Officer; and, as a budget analyst in the Office of Administration and Resource Management’s Office of Comptroller.

Most recently, Lek worked at the World Bank Group in Washington, D.C. as the co-program manager of the Pollution Management and Environmental Health Program, Environment and National Resources Global Practice.  Lek holds a B.A. in Political Science from George Mason University, and a M.A. in National Security Studies from Georgetown University.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Margaret R. Graham

The U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW) will hold a hearing on the nomination of Alexandra Dapolito Dunn to be the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Assistant Administrator (AA) for EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention (OCSPP) on Thursday, November 29, 2018, at 10:30 a.m. (EST) in room 406 of the Dirksen Senate Office Building.  The hearing will be webcast and will be available on the EPW Committee website.

Ms. Dunn has been serving as the Regional Administrator for EPA’s New England Region (Region 1) since January of this year.  Prior to joining EPA, Ms. Dunn served as Executive Director and General Counsel for the Environmental Council of the States (ECOS), a national nonprofit, nonpartisan organization committed to helping state agencies improve environment outcomes for Americans. While at ECOS, Ms. Dunn helped state governments improve water infrastructure, reduce air pollution, clean up contaminated sites, manage chemical safety, and enhance economic development.  Before joining ECOS, Ms. Dunn was Executive Director and General Counsel for the Association of Clean Water Administrators.  Ms. Dunn was also a former chair of the American Bar Association’s (ABA) Section of Environment, Energy, and Resources (SEER).  More information on Ms. Dunn’s experience and accolades is available in EPA’s press release announcing her nomination.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Margaret R. Graham

On October 17, 2018, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued its final fees rule under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) in the Federal Register.  83 Fed. Reg. 52694.  The final rule largely tracks the proposed rule.  EPA is establishing fees applicable to any person required to submit information to EPA; or a notice, including an exemption or other information, to be reviewed by EPA; or who manufactures (including imports) a chemical substance that is the subject of a risk evaluation.  This final rulemaking describes the final TSCA fees and fee categories for fiscal years 2019, 2020, and 2021, and explains the methodology by which the final TSCA fees were determined.  It identifies some factors and considerations for determining fees for subsequent fiscal years; and includes amendments to existing fee regulations governing the review of premanufacture notices, exemption applications and notices, and significant new use notices. As required in TSCA, EPA is also establishing standards for determining which persons qualify as “small business concerns” and thus would be subject to lower fee payments.  Small businesses will be eligible to receive a substantial discount of approximately 80 percent on their fees.  EPA will host a series of webinars focusing on making TSCA submissions and paying fees under the final rule.  The first webinar was held on October 10, 2018.  The other two webinars will be held on October 24, 2018, from 1:00 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. (EDT) and on November 7, 2018, from 1:00 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. (EDT).  Our memorandum provides an overview of the final rule with specific information about final fee amounts and timing and a commentary.  The final rule is effective on October 18, 2018.


 
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