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By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton

The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) released on August 5, 2022, a new report on the National Emerging Contaminants Research Initiative (NECRI). The report outlines a federal strategy to address critical research gaps related to detecting and assessing emerging contaminants in drinking water, as well as identifying and mitigating the adverse health effects those contaminants cause. The report also outlines strategic steps needed to more effectively track, identify, and mitigate contaminants of emerging concern (CEC), which have been traditionally difficult to detect in drinking water.

The report outlines five research goals:

  • Decrease the time from drinking water CEC identification to risk mitigation;
  • Promote technological innovation in tools to discover, track, and mitigate drinking water CECs;
  • Develop and deploy tools and approaches for drinking water CEC decision making;
  • Coordinate transdisciplinary drinking water CEC research activities among federal and non-federal partners; and
  • Foster transparency and public trust when communicating about drinking water CECs.

According to the report, over the next year, the CEC Strategy Team “will operationalize the NECRI through an implementation framework that organizes and coordinates the strategic goals, harnesses existing research, and fuels transformative advancements.” The information derived from these actions will, in turn, inform drinking water advisories, standards, and public health actions and “help our Nation to realize the vision of safe and plentiful [drinking water] for every person.”

Tags: CEC, OSTP

 

 By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
 
On July 13, 2022, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) requested input from all interested parties to identify data gaps in research and development (R&D) regarding several aspects of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). 87 Fed. Reg. 41749. This information will be used to inform a strategic plan for federal coordination of PFAS R&D and, in compliance with Section 332 of the William M. (Mac) Thornberry National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021 (NDAA), the interagency strategy team on PFAS will also develop an implementation plan for federal agencies.
 
For purposes of the RFI, the term PFAS has the definition provided in NDAA Section 332(g)(1): “(A) man-made chemicals of which all of the carbon atoms are fully fluorinated carbon atoms; and (B) man-made chemicals containing a mix of fully fluorinated carbon atoms, partially fluorinated carbon atoms, and nonfluorinated carbon atoms.” The RFI states that examples of products that use PFAS include food contact materials (e.g., packaging, cookware), stain- and water-repellant fabrics and carpets, and firefighting foams. PFAS may be present in water, soil, air, food, and other materials. According to the RFI, “[r]esearch has shown that PFAS are highly stable chemicals that accumulate in people, animals, and the environment over time, and in several cases, have been shown to cause adverse health effects.”
 
The RFI states that respondents may provide information for one or as many research goals below as they choose:

  • The removal of PFAS from the environment, in part or in total;
  • The safe destruction or degradation of PFAS;
  • The development and deployment of safer and more environmentally friendly alternative substances that are functionally similar to those made with PFAS;
  • The understanding of sources of environmental PFAS contamination and pathways to exposure for the public; and/or
  • The understanding of the toxicity of PFAS to humans and animals.

OSTP states that it is interested in responses to the following questions:

  • Should the federal government consider identifying priority PFAS when developing a strategic plan for PFAS R&D? If so, what criteria should be used to identify priority PFAS for R&D (e.g., tonnage used per year; releases to the environment per year; toxicology or other human or environmental health concerns; or national security or critical infrastructure uses)?
  • Are there criteria that could be applied across the five research goals identified above, or should specific criteria be developed for each individual research goal?
  • Based on the definition of PFAS in the RFI, what are the scientific, technological, and human challenges that must be addressed to understand and to reduce significantly the environmental and human impacts of PFAS and to identify cost-effective:
    • Alternatives to PFAS that are designed to be safer and more environmentally friendly;
    • Methods for removal of PFAS from the environment; and
    • Methods to destroy or degrade PFAS safely?
  • Are there specific chemistries and/or intended uses that PFAS provide for which there are no known alternatives at this time?
  • What are alternatives to the definition of PFAS provided in this RFI? What are the implications of these alternative definitions on possible remediation strategies?
  • What should be the R&D priorities for accelerating progress, improving efficiency, and reducing the cost of: analytical methods, detection limits, and non-targeted detection?
  • What studies would yield the most useful information and address the current gaps in understanding PFAS health effects in humans (e.g., in vitro, animal toxicological, and epidemiological studies)? Which health effects should be prioritized? What additional impacts beyond health should be prioritized? Social scientific approaches are welcome in addressing this question and any others, as appropriate.
  • One challenge across all research goals is PFAS mixtures and formulations. Currently, more information is needed to understand the identity, composition, occurrence, source, or effects on human health and the environment for mixtures of PFAS found in environmental media. Additionally, more information is needed to understand the best way to remediate or destroy media contaminated with multiple PFAS. What should be the R&D priorities for accelerating progress in these areas?
  • What goals, priorities, and performance metrics would be valuable in measuring the success of national, federally-funded PFAS R&D initiatives relating to:
    • The removal of PFAS from the environment;
    • Safely destroying or degrading PFAS;
    • Developing safer and more environmentally friendly alternatives to PFAS; and
    • Mitigating negative human effects of PFAS, whether related to health or additional domains?

Responses are due August 29, 2022.

Tags: OSTP, RFI, Data, PFAS

 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
 
On May 12, 2022, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy’s (OSTP) National Science and Technology Council’s (NSTC) Strategy Team on Sustainable Chemistry will host the second webinar in a series regarding the team’s tasks of defining, assessing, and preparing a strategic plan in the area of sustainable chemistry in response to direction in the National Defense Authorization Act of 2020. The presenters in the webinar will discuss the science, technology, and innovation needs of the chemical industries, including carbon capture, sustainable process design, and chemical separation technologies. Speakers will include:

  • Dionisios (Dion) G. Vlachos, University of Delaware;
  • Joan F. Brennecke, University of Texas at Austin; and
  • Jennifer Wilcox, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Office of Fossil Energy and Carbon Management at the U.S. Department of Energy.

Registration is now open.

Tags: OSTP, NSTC, Webinar,

 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
 
On March 3, 2022, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) published a request for information (RFI) to support the development of a federal scientific integrity policy framework. 87 Fed. Reg. 12165. According to OSTP, the framework will include assessment criteria that OSTP and agencies can use to inform, review, and improve the content and implementation of agency scientific integrity policies. To support this framework, OSTP seeks information on: (1) how scientific integrity policies can address important and emergent issues, including diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility; new technologies; emerging modes of science; and coordination with related policy domains; (2) the criteria to evaluate scientific integrity policy content, implementation, outcomes, and impacts in the Executive Branch; (3) how to ensure that scientific integrity evaluation findings lead to effective iterative improvement of federal scientific integrity policy and practices; and (4) how to ensure the long-term viability and implementation of federal scientific integrity policies, practices, and culture through future administrations. Comments are due April 4, 2022.
 
OSTP states that this effort builds on the Scientific Integrity Task Force’s review of existing scientific integrity policies and practices, released in the January 11, 2022 report, Protecting the Integrity of Government Science. As reported in our January 13, 2022, blog item, the scientific integrity principles and best practices identified in the report “aim to ensure that science is conducted, managed, communicated, and used in ways that preserve its accuracy and objectivity and protect it from suppression, manipulation, and inappropriate influence -- including political interference.”


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
 
On January 11, 2022, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) released the report of its Scientific Integrity Task Force on protecting the integrity of government science. According to OSTP, the scientific integrity principles and best practices identified in the report “aim to ensure that science is conducted, managed, communicated, and used in ways that preserve its accuracy and objectivity and protect it from suppression, manipulation, and inappropriate influence -- including political interference.” The report finds that:

  • While violations of scientific integrity are small in number compared to the magnitude of the federal government’s scientific enterprise, they can significantly undermine federal decision-making and public trust in science;
  • Existing federal scientific integrity policies are responsive to previous Executive actions but need to be strengthened to deter better inappropriate influence in the conduct, management, communication, and use of science; and
  • Supporting scientific integrity requires attention to other policy areas, including greater transparency into research processes and outputs; clear guidelines for data and information that agencies release; and policies that promote safe, equitable workplaces free from harassment and discrimination.

OSTP notes that the Obama Administration identified six principles of scientific integrity in 2009. To not only restore, but to strengthen the integrity of federal science beyond the efforts of any previous Administration, the Task Force makes the following additional recommendations to guide policymaking and foster a culture of scientific integrity in federal agencies:

  • All federal agencies -- not just those that fund and conduct scientific research -- should develop, implement, and periodically update scientific integrity policies. Protecting scientific integrity is essential for any federal agency or entity that communicates or makes use of scientific and technical information in decision-making;
  • Scientific integrity policies should apply to all those in federal agencies who manage, communicate, or use science, not just to scientists and engineers who conduct research, and not just to career employees, but contractors and political appointees as well. All must be trained in scientific integrity and their roles in upholding it;
  • Scientific integrity policies should be modernized to address important, emergent issues. They must advance diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility; address new concerns arising from the use of emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning; and apply to emerging modes of science, such as citizen science and community-engaged research with federal involvement;
  • There should be broader dissemination and adoption of good scientific integrity practices across the federal government, a task that could be facilitated by more formalized interagency collaboration; and
  • There should be widespread training for agency scientists so they can communicate scientific findings effectively to nonscientists in their agencies and to lay audiences, with the idea of helping to ensure that policies and actions are based on an accurate understanding of the science.

OSTP states that in the coming months, it will draw upon the findings of the Task Force to develop a plan for the regular assessment and iterative improvement of scientific integrity policies and practices. In addition, agency leadership, working closely with OSTP, will deploy this framework to ensure that their scientific integrity policies are informed by the Task Force report and adhere to scientific integrity principles.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
 
The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) announced on July 20, 2021, that it is organizing a series of three virtual listening sessions to hear about issues and concerns related to scientific integrity from members of the public who produce, communicate, and use scientific and technical information. 86 Fed. Reg. 38363. According to OSTP, it will use perspectives gathered during the virtual listening sessions to inform the assessment of federal agencies’ scientific-integrity policies and identification of best practices and lessons learned that the National Science and Technology Council’s Task Force on Scientific Integrity is preparing, pursuant to the January 2021 Presidential Memorandum on Restoring Trust in Government Through Scientific Integrity and Evidence-Based Policymaking.

Each of three listening sessions will be organized around a particular theme and audience:

  • Session 1 (Wednesday, July 28, 2021, 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. (EDT)): Communications, including using effective policies and practices to improve the communication of scientific and technological information, including for engagement of federal scientists and contractors with news media and on social media. The target audience includes individuals from news media, science writers, and science communicators;
     
  • Session 2 (Thursday, July 29, 2021, 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. (EDT)): Science and Education, including using effective policies and practices to support professional development of scientists and researchers of all genders, races, ethnicities, and backgrounds; to address scientific-integrity issues related to emerging technologies, such as artificial intelligence and machine learning, and evolving scientific practices, such as citizen science and community-engaged research; to improve training of scientific staff about scientific integrity; and to handle disagreements about scientific methods and conclusions. The target audience includes scientists, engineers, and educators from the federal and non-federal sectors; and
     
  • Session 3 (Friday, July 30, 2021, 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. (EDT)): Use of Scientific and Technical Information, including using the effectiveness of federal scientific integrity policies to promote trust in federal science and address concerns about a lack of scientific integrity impeding the equitable delivery of the federal government’s programs. The target audience includes individuals who use federal scientific and technical information for decision-making or provision of services; individuals from disadvantaged communities; and other consumers of science.

Participants in all sessions may also comment on the predominant challenges they perceive to scientific integrity in federal agencies and effective practices for minimizing political or other inappropriate interference in the conduct, communication, or use of federal science. Speakers will have up to two minutes each to make a comment. As many speakers will be accommodated as the scheduled time allows. Individuals unable to attend the listening sessions or who would like to provide more detailed information may respond to the Request for Information (RFI) to Improve Federal Scientific Integrity Policies. Comments on the RFI are due July 28, 2021. The registration deadline for the virtual listening sessions is July 23, 2021, at 5:00 p.m. (EDT).


 

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 Lynn L. Bergeson

The hearing on the nominations of four U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) officials by the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW) scheduled for September 20, 2017, has been postponed without any specific reasons; a new hearing date has not been provided.  Bergeson & Campbell, P.C. (B&C®) will be monitoring the Senate EPW Committee calendar for the new hearing date.

More information on the nominees is available in our blog item Senate EPW Committee to Hold Hearing on Nominations of EPA Officials.