By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
On February 1, 2021, the U.S. District Court for the District of Montana granted the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) January 31, 2021, unopposed motion to vacate and remand its January 6, 2021, final rule on “Strengthening Transparency in Pivotal Science Underlying Significant Regulatory Actions and Influential Scientific Information” (86 Fed. Reg. 469). EDF v. EPA, No. 4:21-cv-03-BMM. On January 11, 2021, the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), Montana Environmental Information Center (MEIC), and Citizens for Clean Energy (CCE) filed suit against EPA, claiming that the January 6, 2021, final rule was unlawful and that EPA’s decision to make the final rule effective on publication was unlawful. On January 27, 2021, the court granted summary judgment to the plaintiffs, finding that EPA did not provide good cause to exempt the final rule from the Administrative Procedure Act’s (APA) 30-day notice requirement. The court stated that “EPA’s decision to make the Final Rule immediately effective on publication was ‘arbitrary, capricious’ and ‘otherwise not in accordance with law.’” In its January 31, 2021, motion, EPA states based on the court’s conclusion that the final rule constitutes a substantive rule and that EPA “lacked authorization to promulgate the rule pursuant to its housekeeping authority.” According to EPA, where EPA lacked the authority to promulgate the final rule, “remand without vacatur would serve no useful purpose because EPA would not be able to cure that defect on remand.” EPA notes that because the final rule was in effect for less than a month, and it had not applied the rule in any circumstance while the rule was in effect, “there would be no disruptive consequences in remanding and vacating the rule.”
Prior to EPA’s motion to vacate and remand the final rule, on January 20, 2021, President Joe Biden signed an Executive Order (EO) on Protecting Public Health and the Environment and Restoring Science to Tackle the Climate Crisis. According to the EO, it is the policy of the Biden Administration “to listen to the science; to improve public health and protect our environment; to ensure access to clean air and water; to limit exposure to dangerous chemicals and pesticides; to hold polluters accountable, including those who disproportionately harm communities of color and low-income communities; to reduce greenhouse gas emissions; to bolster resilience to the impacts of climate change; to restore and expand our national treasures and monuments; and to prioritize both environmental justice and the creation of the well-paying union jobs necessary to deliver on these goals.” The EO directs all executive departments and agencies to review immediately and, as appropriate and consistent with applicable law, take action to address the promulgation of federal regulations and other actions during the Trump Administration that conflict with the Biden Administration’s national objectives, and to commence work immediately to confront the climate crisis. The EO calls for the heads of all agencies to review immediately “all existing regulations, orders, guidance documents, policies, and any other similar agency actions (agency actions) promulgated, issued, or adopted between January 20, 2017, and January 20, 2021, that are or may be inconsistent with, or present obstacles to,” the Biden Administration’s policy. For any identified actions, the EO directs the heads of agencies to “consider suspending, revising, or rescinding the agency actions.” In addition, for certain specified agency actions, the EO states that the head of the relevant agency “shall consider publishing for notice and comment a proposed rule suspending, revising, or rescinding the agency action within the time frame specified.” The specified agency actions include EPA’s January 6, 2021, final rule on “Strengthening Transparency in Pivotal Science Underlying Significant Regulatory Actions and Influential Scientific Information.”
As reported in our January 11, 2021, memorandum, the origin of EPA’s January 6, 2021, final rule is rooted in legislative proposals more clearly intended to challenge important regulatory requirements, particularly related to EPA’s air program. We predicted that the final rule would likely be among the first items subject to reversal or “clarifying” guidance making it consistent with previously established science policies (see Bergeson & Campbell, P.C.’s (B&C®) Forecast 2021 memo). With Democratic control of both houses of Congress, there might also be attempts to repeal the rule via action under the Congressional Review Act (CRA) of recently promulgated regulations.
By Lynn L. Bergeson and Margaret R. Graham
On March 6, 2018, in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) filed its Principal Brief in the litigation case that petitions for review the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) Inventory Notification (Active-Inactive) Requirements final rule (EDF v. EPA, No. 1701 (D.C. Cir.)).
EDF’s brief includes, among other required statements, a statement of the issues, a statement of the case, a summary of their argument, and their argument. EDF’s arguments are as follows:
- The Inventory Rule withholds information on chemical substances manufactured or processed in the U.S. from the public; this information is required to be disclosed under amended TSCA; EDF has been harmed by EPA’s failure to disclose this information and to disclose unique identifiers for confidential chemicals; and the court can redress this harm.
- The final rule illegally allows manufacturers and processors to assert certain new claims for nondisclosure of specific chemical identities based on other persons having asserted earlier claims, which is contrary to TSCA’s plain text and the relevant precedent governing confidentiality claims; and EPA’s rationale for its interpretation is arbitrary and capricious.
- The final rule violates both the substantive and procedural requirements of TSCA Section 14, Confidential Information, specifically that: EPA refused to accept that TSCA Section 8, Reporting and Retention of Information, repeatedly incorporates Section 14 requirements for confidentiality claims; the final rule fails to implement one of the substantive requirements for confidentiality claims under Section 14; and the final rule fails to implement one of the substantive requirements for confidentiality claims under Section 14.
- The final rule fails to implement the unique identifier and other public information requirements in TSCA Section 8(b)(7)(B).
- The final rule exempts chemicals manufactured and processed solely for export from the reporting requirements, even though such chemicals are specifically not exempted from TSCA Section 8.
- Finally, EDF requests the court to set aside the rule in part, stating that vacatur, along with remand, is the appropriate remedy for EPA’s violations of the Administrative Procedure Act (APA). EDF does not seek a complete vacatur, however, stating that “a complete vacatur would postpone the release of some of the very information that EDF seeks, since it would allow EPA to postpone publishing the Inventory based on the information it has already collected. In addition, it would impose costs on the regulated community beyond those necessary to remedy EDF’s harms [and] those manufacturers and processors who have already filed notices without claims of confidentiality should not need to refile the notices.” The portions of the final rule that EDF requests the court to vacate are as follows: the exclusion for export-only manufacturers (40 C.F.R. Section 710.27(a)(4)); Confidentiality Claims (40 C.F.R. Section 710.37); and certain portions of the preamble. EDF states specific instructions on how it would like the court to order EPA to promulgate the regulation on remand that include revisions to regulations on confidentiality claims, public information requirements, and notifications of activities during the lookback period.
EDF has done its usual thorough job and the brief is definitely a must read for TSCA stakeholders. More information on this proceeding and the other challenges to the TSCA framework final rules is available on our blog under key words framework rules.
By Lynn L. Bergeson and Margaret R. Graham
On September 14, 2017, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) filed a motion in the two Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals cases regarding review of the EPA Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) framework rule Procedures for Chemical Risk Evaluation under TSCA: Safer Chemicals Healthy Families v. EPA, Case No. 17-72260 (filed August 10, 2017); and Environmental Defense Fund v. EPA, Case No. 17-72501 (filed September 6, 2017), requesting that the cases be transferred to the Fourth Circuit and to hold the cases in abeyance. In the motion, EPA states three reasons why these cases should be transferred:
- "It is in the interest of judicial economy for the same court to hear the challenges to both EPA Rules,” and “[a]lthough the two Rules are distinct and have separate administrative records, the parties anticipate that there will be some overlap of issues.”
- “It would be more convenient for the parties and conserve travel resources for these cases to be heard in the Fourth Circuit, because all counsel of record are located in Washington, DC, or New York.”
- “The Fourth Circuit may be able to resolve the petitions for review more quickly than this Court given the respective complexity of the courts’ dockets.”
In this motion, EPA also requests for these cases to be held in abeyance as it “will conserve party resources to wait until resolution of EPA’s motion to transfer before completing any scheduled filings, particularly because the two have different schedules” and “the deadline for interested persons to file petitions for review of the Prioritization and Risk Evaluation Rules has not yet expired…. additional petitions for review … could be filed as late as October 2, 2017.”
In Case No. 17-72260, Petitioners’ briefs are due October 30, 2017, and Respondent EPA’s briefs are due November 28, 2017. A briefing schedule has not been scheduled yet in Case No. 17-72501. On September 11, 2017, in Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments, et al. v. EPA, Case No. 17-1926, the Fourth Circuit case regarding review of EPA’s TSCA framework rule Procedures for Chemical Risk Evaluation under TSCA, the Fourth Circuit rescinded the briefing schedule. A new briefing schedule has not been set.
More information on these petitions for review is available on our blog under key phrases framework rules and petition for review.
By Lynn L. Bergeson and Margaret R. Graham
On September 1, 2017, the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) filed a petition for review in the U.S Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit (No. 17-1201) of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) final Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) framework rule TSCA Inventory Notification (Active-Inactive) Requirements, published on August 11, 2017 (82 Fed. Reg. 37520).
This is the third and final challenge by EDF to the framework rules implementing amended TSCA (there are only three framework rules), but the seventh total challenge, as other parties have also petitioned for review. On August 11, 2017, EDF petitioned for review of the TSCA framework rules Procedures for Chemical Risk Evaluation under TSCA and the final rule Procedures for Prioritization of Chemicals for Risk Evaluation, filed on August 11 (Second Cir. Case Nos. 17-2464 and 17-2403, respectively). Per the Consolidation Orders of the United States Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation, both of EDF’s August 11 petitions have now been consolidated with other petitions for review of the same orders. Case No. 17-2464 was moved to the Fourth Circuit, and Case No. 2403 was moved to the Ninth Circuit.
In the Fourth Circuit, the opening brief, record from agency, and the appendix are due September 20, 2017, and the response brief is due October 20, 2017. In the Ninth Circuit, the Petitioners’ briefs are due October 30, 2017, and Respondent EPA’s briefs are due November 28, 2017.
By Lynn L. Bergeson and Margaret R. Graham
On August 10, 2017, and on August 11, 2017, petitions for review of two of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) final “framework rules” issued under the amended Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) were filed in federal court. These six lawsuits seek review of the final rule Procedures for Chemical Risk Evaluation under TSCA and the final rule Procedures for Prioritization of Chemicals for Risk Evaluation under TSCA. The petitions were filed by Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families, et al. on August 10, 2017 (Cases 17-72260 and 17-72259); the Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments, et al. (including the Natural Resources Defense Council) on August 11, 2017 (Cases 17-1926 and 17-1927 (consolidated)); and the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) on August 11, 2017 (Cases 17-2464 and 17-2403), in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth, Fourth, and Second Circuits, respectively. In the Ninth Circuit, the Petitioner’s Briefs are due October 30, 2017, and Respondent EPA’s briefs are due November 28, 2017; in the Fourth Circuit, the opening brief, record from agency, and the appendix are due September 20, 2017, and the response brief is due October 20, 2017; in the Second Circuit, a briefing schedule has not been posted yet.
In its petitions for review, Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families, et al. state that they challenge the rules as “arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with law; in excess of statutory jurisdiction, authority, or limitations; and without observance of procedure required by law.” On the Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families’ website, the organization states that the petitions allege the rules “fail to provide the protections against unsafe chemicals that Congress required in the critical priority-setting and risk evaluation provisions of the new law, which are intended to ensure that unreasonable risks to health and the environment are fully assessed and eliminated.” In its petitions for review, EDF does not list any details as to why it is seeking review (nor do the rules require petitioners to do so), but on its website it states that “EPA has issued framework rules that violate the letter and intent of the law,” and that EDF has filed lawsuits challenging those rules and “will continue to monitor EPA’s actions to ensure EPA complies with the law and protects public health.” The petitions for review filed by the Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments, et al. do not list any details as to why they are seeking review.