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FY 2017 Budget Agreement Leaves EPA Budget Largely Intact
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By Christopher R. Bryant, Lynn L. Bergeson, and Margaret R. Graham

Facing a government shutdown, late on April 30, 2017, lawmakers reached agreement on a spending bill that funds the federal government through September 2017, which is the end of Fiscal Year (FY) 2017. 

President Trump’s budget blueprint sought to slash EPA’s coffers by some 31 percent (and more if certain programs were eliminated from the base).  The deal reached by lawmakers, however, would essentially fund EPA at its current levels and retain current staff levels.  The bill appropriates $8.058 billion for EPA, paring a little over $80 million -- about one percent -- from EPA’s FY 2016 budget. 

Programs targeted for elimination by President Trump remain funded, at least through September, when Congress will face another budget showdown.  For example, the bill funds the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, the Chesapeake Bay Program, and lead elimination programs. 

While EPA’s budget is generally unchanged, the bill does contain several policy riders.  It would require EPA to treat air emissions from forest biomass as carbon neutral.  EPA also would not be allowed to regulate manure and similar agricultural byproducts as wastes under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), and the bill would bar EPA from requiring Clean Water Act (CWA) permits for certain agricultural practices.  The legislation also prohibits funding to regulate lead content of ammunition, ammunition components, and fishing tackle under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) or any other law.

Senate Report No. 114-281 on the pending FY 2017 budget deal and an accompanying explanatory statement also address specifically TSCA, the Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS), and nanomaterials.  The specific language is below.

  • Toxic Substances Control Act Modernization -- The Committee notes that legislation to modernize the Toxic Substances Control Act [TSCA] was recently approved by both the Senate and the House of Representatives. This bill includes language that will enable the EPA to collect and spend new fees to conduct additional chemical reviews, consistent with TSCA modernization legislation. Those fees are expected to be $25,000,000 per year once the program is fully implemented. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that in fiscal year 2017, fee collections will begin several months after the beginning of the fiscal year and will total $4,000,000. This bill also includes language ensuring that new fee collections will supplement, not supplant, appropriated resources for these activities.
  • Integrated Risk Information System -- The Committee is aware of efforts by the Agency to implement the 2011 National Academy of Science’s [NAS] Chapter 7 and 2014 NAS report recommendations for the Integrated Risk Information System [IRIS] but remains concerned that the recommendations have not been fully implemented. In published appendices that accompany final IRIS assessments, EPA has detailed some of the Agency’s deficiencies in meeting the NAS high-priority reforms. The Committee directs the Agency to convene an interagency working group to be Co-Chaired with the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs and to include relevant executive branch stakeholders to review compliance with the NAS recommendations in IRIS assessments issued since the 2014 NAS report. The working group shall focus specifically on transition from the use of single point estimates of hazard and exposure to presenting more complete information on the distribution of estimated hazards, exposures, and/or risks, including central tendency values; on processes for evaluating study quality, relevance, and risk of bias; the use of a transparent and reproducible weight-of-evidence process for applying scientific findings; the selection of an adverse outcome; and the use of default linear low-dose extrapolation and other default modeling approaches to hazard determinations. The Committee directs the Agency to issue a report to the Committees of Appropriations of the House and Senate on the findings of the working group and the implementation plans of its findings within 180 days of enactment of this act. The working group report shall also include a timetable for EPA’s full implementation of the NAS recommendations for all IRIS assessments issued since the 2014 NAS report.
  • Nanomaterials Research -- The Committee notes the increased capabilities that the Food and Drug Administration [FDA] has developed to study environment, health, and safety of nanomaterials [nanoEHS] within FDA’s Jefferson Laboratory Campus, including the National Center for Toxicological Research, and its consolidated headquarters at White Oak, Maryland. The FDA can and should be more involved in nanoEHS research with other agencies, particularly in activities involving human health. Out of the amounts appropriated, the [EPA} Administrator shall seek to involve the FDA in nanoEHS research to the maximum extent possible, including participation in EPA funded research.