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House Environment and Commerce Leaders Request Information from EPA about New Chemical Review Program
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By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton

On August 17, 2021, Representatives Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), Chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Diana DeGette (D-CO), Chair of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, and Paul Tonko (D-NY), Chair of the Subcommittee on Environment and Climate Change, sent a letter to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Michael Regan to request information regarding “concerning reported irregularities” in EPA’s chemical review program. The Committee’s August 17, 2021, press release states that “[a]ccording to recent allegations made by four whistleblowers -- each a current or former staffer in EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention (OCSPP) -- the OCSPP has for many years downplayed the dangers of new chemicals and inappropriately interfered with risk assessments conducted pursuant to the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).” The press release states that additional reports “have described the interference alleging that OCSPP manipulated the review of dozens of chemicals” to make the chemicals appear safer. EPA employees “were reportedly pressured to downplay evidence of chemicals’ potential adverse effects such as cancer, birth defects, and neurological effects,” and “EPA’s scientific staff were subject to retaliation.”

The August 17, 2021, letter requests a briefing from EPA, as well as written responses to the following issues:

  • Describe EPA’s understanding as to the veracity of the complaints raised by whistleblowers regarding interference in the chemical program. Explain what actions, if any, EPA has taken to look into these allegations.
  • Is EPA considering reevaluating any chemicals in light of concerns that their review process may have been subject to interference or that they may include precursors to per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS)? If so, describe the process and timeline for any reevaluation.
  • Does EPA have any ongoing or planned efforts to review and strengthen whistleblower protections? If so, describe these efforts, including the EPA office responsible for these improvements and any associated timelines.