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By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
 
Under the Reports Consolidation Act of 2000, each agency’s inspector general must prepare an annual statement summarizing what the inspector general considers to be “the most serious management and performance challenges facing the agency” and to assess briefly the agency’s progress in addressing those challenges. On November 29, 2022, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Office of Inspector General (OIG) released its report regarding EPA’s fiscal year (FY) 2023 top management challenges. According to the report, the eight top management challenges for EPA in FY 2023 include:

  • Providing for the Safe Use of Chemicals: The public must be able to depend on the EPA’s ability to conduct credible and timely assessments of the risks posed by pesticides, toxic chemicals, and other environmental chemicals.

OIG states in its full report that it conducted an evaluation in 2020 of EPA’s progress toward meeting deadlines established by the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) as amended by the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act (Lautenberg Act), focusing primarily on TSCA’s existing chemicals program. OIG recommended that the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention (OCSPP) assistant administrator publish the annual existing chemicals plan, including the anticipated implementation efforts and required resources; conduct a workforce analysis to assess the Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics’ (OPPT) capability to implement TSCA; and specify what skill gaps had to be filled in FY 2021 to meet the TSCA requirements. According to OIG, on February 7, 2022, OCSPP certified that it had completed all corrective actions for the recommendations in its report. More information on OIG’s 2020 report is available in our August 18, 2020, blog item.
 
OIG notes that an audit of TSCA’s New Chemicals Review Process is currently ongoing as part of its FY 2022 Oversight Plan. According to OIG, the objective of that review is to determine the extent to which EPA is using and complying with applicable records-management and quality-assurance requirements and employee performance standards to review and approve new chemicals under TSCA to manage human health and environmental risks.
 
According to OIG, per EPA, “an increased workload and the need for resources -- especially staff trained in specific science skills -- are major factors in not being on track to meet many of the EPA’s statutory deadlines.” Citing a trade press article, OIG states that “[s]pecifically, the OCSPP stated that it does not have the resources to address statutory requirements. The OCSPP also stated that it has not received the necessary funding to complete its mission.” For example, OCSPP reports that it has approximately 310 full-time equivalent staff but estimates that it needs about 500 full-time equivalents for its mission. EPA also cited a lack of resources for its failure to post publicly the risk reports for 1,240 new chemicals.
 
In FY 2022, EPA requested an additional $15 million and 87.6 full-time equivalents -- a 35 percent increase from the FY 2021 enacted full-time equivalent level -- to meet the increased responsibilities from the Lautenberg Act. The FY 2022 enacted budget provided for 25.6 full-time equivalents for TSCA programs, however. Furthermore, according to OIG, OCSPP conducted a recent assessment that recommended that the office hire more staff, mitigate the workload to manage the workforce’s daily stress, modernize information technology (IT) systems, and eliminate the use of multiple tracking systems.
 
OIG concludes that many of the Biden Administration’s top priorities rely on the work of the OCSPP. Both EPA OIG and EPA have noted that key OCSPP programs face a steep staffing shortage and a lack of planning that could negatively impact critical chemical work, however. Absent the resources OCSPP needs for its TSCA programs, EPA “will remain challenged with meeting its statutory deadlines.” OIG states that if OCSPP is unable to balance the workload with its resource needs, EPA “will continue to face the key challenge of ensuring the safety of chemicals.”


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
 
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced on November 10, 2022, that it is requesting nominations of prospective candidates for membership on the Science Advisory Committee on Chemicals (SACC) established under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). 87 Fed. Reg. 67898. Any interested person or organization may nominate qualified persons to be considered for appointment to the SACC. Individuals may also self-nominate. Nominations are due December 12, 2022.
 
SACC serves as a scientific peer review mechanism of EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention (OCSPP). According to EPA, SACC provides independent scientific advice and recommendations to EPA on the scientific basis for risk assessments, methodologies, and pollution prevention measures and approaches for chemicals regulated under TSCA. Currently, there are 17 SACC members, with eight membership terms that will expire over the next year.
 
EPA states that its “rigorous scientific peer review processes ensure all Agency decisions are founded on credible science and data. Science provides the foundation for EPA policies, actions and decisions made on behalf of the American people.”
 
To be considered, all nominations should include the following information:

  • Current contact information for the nominee (including the nominee’s name, organization, current business address, e-mail address, and daytime telephone number);
     
  • The nominee’s disciplinary and specific areas of expertise;
     
  • Research activities;
     
  • Recent service on other federal advisory committees and national or international professional organizations; and
     
  • When available, a biographical sketch of the nominee, indicating current position and educational background.

EPA states that it is seeking nominations from individuals who have demonstrated high levels of competence, knowledge, and expertise in scientific and other technical fields relevant to chemical safety and risk assessment. EPA seeks nominees with expertise in a variety of disciplines and focus areas, including human health and ecological risk assessment, biostatistics, epidemiology, pediatrics, physiologically based pharmacokinetics (PBPK), toxicology and pathology (including neurotoxicology, developmental/reproductive toxicology, and carcinogenesis), and chemical exposure pathways to susceptible life stages and subpopulations (women, children, and other potentially exposed subpopulations).
 
EPA states that nominees should have backgrounds and experiences that would contribute to the diversity of scientific viewpoints on the committee -- including professional experiences in government, labor, public health, public interest, animal protection, industry, and other groups -- and as the EPA Administrator determines to be advisable (e.g., geographical location; social and cultural backgrounds; and professional affiliations).

Tags: SACC, OCSPP, Review

 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has published the draft fiscal year (FY) 2023-2024 National Program Guidances (NPG) for public comment. The NPGs set forth the strategies and actions EPA and its state and Tribal partners intend to undertake to protect human health and the environment. The draft FY 2023-2024 NPGs include an NPG for the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention (OCSPP). Work in this NPG directly supports Goal 7, “Ensure Safety of Chemicals for People and the Environment,” in EPA’s FY 2022 - 2026 EPA Strategic Plan. OCSPP’s draft NPG also integrates the Strategic Plan’s goal to tackle climate change, advance environmental justice and civil rights, and consider the health of children and other vulnerable populations in implementing its programs. OCSPP’s program priorities include:

  • Pesticide Cooperative Agreements with States and Tribes;
  • Pollinator Protection Efforts;
  • Revised Pesticide Worker Protection Standard Rule;
  • Revised Certification of Pesticide Applicators Rule;
  • Region-Specific Pesticide Priorities on Those Areas of Greatest Need Nationally;
  • Toxics Release Inventory (TRI);
  • Lead Risk Reduction; and
  • Pollution Prevention (P2).

For each priority, the draft NPG includes a description, strategy, activities, and measures. The draft NPG also includes sections on implementing Tribal work; flexibility and grant planning; federal civil rights responsibilities, including Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964; and FY 2023-2024 National Program Measures. Comments on the draft NPGs are due July 14, 2022.

Tags: NPG, OCSPP, P2, TRI

 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will hold a virtual public meeting April 20-21, 2022, to seek individual input on the proposed Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) New Chemicals Collaborative Research Program. 87 Fed. Reg. 10784. In addition, EPA announced the availability of and is soliciting public comment on the draft document entitled “Modernizing the Process and Bringing Innovative Science to Evaluate New Chemicals Under TSCA.” EPA states that the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention (OCSPP) is proposing to develop and implement a multi-year collaborative research program focused on approaches for performing risk assessments on new chemical substances under TSCA. According to EPA, the effort will be performed in partnership with its Office of Research and Development (ORD) and other federal entities to leverage their expertise and resources. Written comments are due April 26, 2022. Registration for the meeting is now open.

According to EPA, the research program will refine existing approaches and develop and implement new approach methodologies (NAM) to ensure the best available science is used in TSCA new chemical evaluations. Key areas proposed in the TSCA New Chemicals Collaborative Research Program include:

  • Updating OCSPP’s approach to using data from structurally similar chemicals to determine potential risks from new chemicals, also known as read-across. According to EPA, this will increase the efficiency of new chemical reviews, promoting the use of the best available data to protect human health and the environment.
  • Digitizing and consolidating information on chemicals to include data and studies that currently exist only in hard copy or in various disparate TSCA databases. EPA will combine the information with publicly available sources to expand the amount of information available, enhancing chemical reviews and enabling efficient sharing of chemical information across EPA. Safeguards for confidential business information (CBI) will be maintained as appropriate in this process.
  • Updating and augmenting the models used for predicting a chemical’s physical-chemical properties and environmental fate/transport, hazard, exposure, and toxicokinetics to provide a suite of models to be used for new chemicals assessments. The goal of this effort is to update the models to reflect the best available science, increase transparency, and establish a process for updating these models as science evolves.
  • Exploring ways to integrate and apply NAMs in new chemicals assessments, reducing the use of animal testing. EPA states that as this effort evolves, the goal is to develop a suite of accepted, fit-for-purpose NAMs that could be used by external stakeholders for data submissions under TSCA, as well as informing and expanding new chemical categories.
  • Developing a decision support tool that integrates the various information streams specifically used for new chemical risk assessments. The decision support tool will integrate more efficiently all the data streams (e.g., chemistry, fate, exposures, hazards) into a final risk assessment and transparently document the decisions and assumptions made. Simply put, this will facilitate the new chemicals program tracking decisions over time and evaluating consistency within and across chemistries.

EPA states that additional information on each of these areas will be provided in the draft collaborative research plan that will be available in the docket by March 14, 2022. Later in 2022, EPA plans to engage its Board of Scientific Counselors (BOSC), a federal advisory committee, for peer review. EPA also intends to issue a Federal Register notice announcing the BOSC meeting and to open a docket for public comments.

Although the notice states that EPA’s background documents and the related supporting materials to the draft are available in the docket established for this meeting, Docket ID Number EPA-HQ-OPPT-2022-0218, nothing is available at this time. EPA states that it will provide additional background documents as the materials become available. After the virtual public meeting, EPA will prepare meeting minutes summarizing the individual comments received at the meeting. EPA will post the meeting minutes on its website and in the relevant docket.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
 
On January 21, 2022, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a new effort under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) to streamline the review of new chemicals that could be used to displace current, higher greenhouse gas (GHG) emitting transportation fuels. The Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention’s (OCSPP) New Chemicals Division (NCD) has implemented a “robust, consistent, and efficient process to assess the risk and apply mitigation measures, as appropriate, for substitutes to petroleum-based fuels and fuel additives that use biobased or waste-derived sources to produce biofuels.” EPA states that this effort supports its goals under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program, as well as its 2021 Climate Adaptation Action Plan. According to the announcement, EPA has received over 30 biofuel premanufacture notices (PMN) “that collectively describe plans for close to 800 million gallons per year of production of advanced biofuels, that could contribute to annual volume mandates under the RFS program and help support the goals of energy security through increasing domestic production” within the United States.
 
The announcement includes:
 
New Chemicals Division Integrated Approach to Biofuels
 
Under this effort, NCD formed a dedicated team to collaborate on the review of PMNs for biobased or waste-derived feedstocks used to make transportation fuel substitutes with the goals to use the best available science while creating a consistent and efficient review process. EPA states that NCD developed a standardized process for the way biofuel PMNs are reviewed. For example, the same dedicated team will be conducting reviews for all biofuels PMNs, helping to ensure the assessments and determinations are consistent and aligned with requirements. Further, NCD will generate one report for biofuels PMNs that combines the six different risk assessments typically conducted for PMNs, helping to provide a clearer summary explanation of how EPA conducted its assessment and made its determination.
 
For risk management actions, NCD will apply appropriate mitigation measures to address any potential for unreasonable risk identified in an efficient and consistent manner within TSCA consent orders and significant new use rules (SNUR).
 
Outreach and Training
 
According to the announcement, OCSPP is launching outreach and training for interested stakeholders in the biofuels sector to review TSCA requirements, outline the streamlined approaches for risk assessments and risk management actions, and provide information on how to navigate the new chemicals PMN process.
 
OCSPP will hold a kick-off meeting on February 9, 2022, to provide an overview of this initiative and answer questions from stakeholders. Registration for the meeting is open.
 
Other planned outreach and training related to this biofuels initiative include webinars on:

  • TSCA requirements and the PMN process;
  • The TSCA Inventory, nomenclature, and Bona Fide process;
  • New chemicals risk assessments, including applications of the tools, models, and databases; and
  • New chemicals risk management actions, including TSCA Section 5 orders and SNURs.

EPA states that it may add additional outreach and training sessions, including training opportunities applicable to all new chemical submitters, based on stakeholder interest and feedback.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
 
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention (OCSPP) is accepting public comments on candidates under consideration for selection as ad hoc reviewers assisting the Science Advisory Committee on Chemicals (SACC) with their review of the draft EPA Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) Screening Level Approach for Assessing Ambient Air and Water Exposures to Fenceline Communities. EPA will use the comments to assist it in selecting approximately six to eight ad hoc reviewers to assist the SACC with its review. Biographies of the candidates are available online. Comments are due January 5, 2022. Comments can be submitted through Docket ID EPA-HQ-OPPT-2021-0415. Information considered to be confidential business information (CBI) or other information whose disclosure is restricted by statute should not be submitted electronically. EPA notes that it will not post copyrighted material without explicit permission of the copyright holder.
 
EPA notes that it published ten final risk evaluations between 2020 and 2021 under TSCA as amended by the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act. During the course of preparing many of these final risk evaluations, the previous Administration made a policy decision that EPA not assess air and water exposure pathways that fall under the jurisdiction of other EPA-administered laws. This policy decision was reversed in June 2021. EPA states that it is presenting Version 1.0 of a screening level methodology for assessing potential air and water pathway chemical exposures to fenceline communities. Along with presenting this methodology, EPA will also present results of applying the screening methodology (case studies) to 1-bromopropane (air pathway), N-methylpyrrolidone (water pathway), and methylene chloride (air and water pathway). The review will take place during a public meeting anticipated for March 15-17, 2022. Registration instructions will be announced on the SACC website in early February 2022.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention (OCSPP) announced on October 14, 2021, several actions intended to enhance scientific integrity, including establishing two internal science policy advisory councils, creating a new senior-level career position to serve as a science policy advisor to the Assistant Administrator, and making further improvements to policies and procedures. The announcement includes the following actions:

  • New OCSPP Science Policy Council and New Science Policy Advisor Position: OCSPP is forming a new internal advisory group, the OCSPP Science Policy Council, to provide advisory support and recommendations on science policy and scientific integrity issues that arise within its Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics (OPPT) and Office of Pesticide Programs (OPP). The OCSPP Science Policy Council will be chaired by a science policy advisor, a newly created position. The science policy advisor will report to the OCSPP Assistant Administrator, provide guidance on emerging science policy and scientific integrity matters, and serve as the deputy scientific integrity official for OCSPP. OCSPP states that the OCSPP Science Policy Council will provide an advisory perspective on matters related to scientific integrity; identify scientific questions that are of broad interest within OCSPP for informal review and, as appropriate, recommend a process for further addressing them; and foster informal opportunities for scientific collaboration within OCSPP. Members chosen to address specific issues or questions will be selected based on their expertise and impartiality on the issue or question, and they may include EPA experts outside of OCSPP. OCSPP notes that the group is not intended to replace or otherwise interfere with EPA’s Scientific Integrity Policy, the Scientific Integrity Official’s role, or the Inspector General’s role.
  • Strengthening New Chemical Safety Reviews: According to OCSPP, as part of its broader review of policies and procedures to ensure the program effectively implements the Biden Administration’s executive orders, other directives, and principles of scientific integrity, OCSPP’s New Chemicals Division (NCD) engaged in a top-to-bottom effort to catalogue, prioritize, and improve its standard operating procedures (SOP), decision making, and recordkeeping practices related to review and management of new chemicals under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). OCSPP states that to date, NCD has inventoried and reviewed over 100 different SOPs, guidances, and science policies, and prioritized those that NCD expects to be updated over the next year. Several policy changes have already been implemented, including stopping harmful new per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) from entering the market and procedures to strengthen the review of new chemicals and ensure worker safety.
    • New Chemicals Advisory Committee: According to OCSPP, NCD has formed the New Chemicals Advisory Committee (NCAC) that, similar to other long-standing internal advisory bodies within OCSPP, will serve as an advisory body to review both scientific and science policy issues related to new chemical submissions subject to TSCA. If differing opinions cannot be resolved through the human health risk assessment process improvements described below, the NCAC and OCSPP Science Policy Council could provide additional opportunities for further consideration.
    • Human Health Risk Assessment Process Improvements: According to OCSPP, NCD solicited feedback from staff and implemented important changes to its process for reviewing and issuing final human health risk assessments. The new process provides additional opportunities for resolution of differing scientific opinions and invites input to the decision-making process to be provided by EPA subject matter experts outside of NCD.
    • Enhanced Recordkeeping Requirements: Proper documentation of decisions and of any differing scientific opinions of those decisions is a significant component of EPA’s Scientific Integrity Policy. OCSPP states that it has implemented some changes to its procedures to ensure improved documentation of decisions and is in the process of further review to identify additional improvements, if any, including for new chemicals human health risk assessments.
  • Workplace Climate Assessment: In September 2021, with the support of an independent contractor, OCSPP launched a workplace climate assessment of the NCD to obtain feedback from employees and management about any potential workplace barriers and opportunities for organizational improvement. OCSPP states that this effort will expand to other parts of OCSPP over the coming months. OCSPP leadership will use the feedback collected to understand, evaluate, and, if necessary, make changes in its work practices and culture to promote collaboration and enhance the science used in its program decision making.

 

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.

 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
 

On July 27, 2021, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention (OCSPP) will hold a public meeting to engage with interested stakeholders on the development of a proposed rule for implementing a tiered data collection strategy to help inform EPA’s prioritization, risk evaluation, and risk management activities for chemical substances or mixtures under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). According to EPA, it currently primarily collects exposure-related data through the TSCA Chemical Data Reporting (CDR) process. EPA is interested in ensuring that data collection strategies provide information to meet better its basic chemical data needs, such as information related to exposure, health, and ecotoxicity. To this end, EPA states that it is exploring a data reporting rule that is tiered to specific stages of the TSCA existing chemicals program: identifying a pool of substances as potential candidates for prioritization; selecting candidate chemicals for and completing the prioritization process; and assessing high-priority substances through a robust risk evaluation, which may be followed by risk management actions (depending on the outcome of the risk evaluation). According to EPA, feedback from the public meeting and comments received will help inform its development of a proposed rule. The meeting will be held virtually via WebEx on July 27, 2021, from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m. (EDT). Those who would like to make a comment during the meeting must register by 6:00 p.m. EDT on July 22, 2021. Those who would like to participate in listen-only mode must register by 6:00 p.m. EDT on July 26, 2021. Written comments are due August 15, 2021.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
 
On June 14, 2021, the Senate confirmed by voice vote Michal Freedhoff to be the Assistant Administrator for Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). As reported in our January 22, 2021, blog item, Freedhoff was onboarded in January 2021 as Principal Deputy Assistant Administrator for Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention. On April 14, 2021, President Joseph Biden nominated Freedhoff for Assistant Administrator for Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention. According to Biden’s announcement, Freedhoff has more than 20 years of government experience, most recently as the Minority Director of Oversight for the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. She began her Congressional service in 1996 in then-Representative Ed Markey’s (D-MA) office as a Congressional Science and Engineering fellow after receiving a Ph.D. in physical chemistry at the University of Rochester. Freedhoff also served on the staffs of the House Science Committee, the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and the House Natural Resources Committee. The announcement states that Freedhoff’s legislative work includes the 2016 re-authorization of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), 2019 legislation to address per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) contamination, the fuel economy provisions in the 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act, and a law requiring the creation of an online database of potential consumer product safety defects.


 
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