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By Charles M. Auer and Richard E. Engler, Ph.D.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics (OPPT or the Office) has decided to delay its pending reorganization to take and consider staff comments on the revised reorganization.  The new plan proposes a six division structure that has separate new and existing chemical risk management divisions complemented by separate new and existing chemical risk assessment divisions.  OPPT’s other functions are proposed to be distributed into a mission operations division and a division that sweeps together chemical right-to-know, economics, information reporting, and the Safer Choice/Design for the Environment (DfE) program.  In an internal memo, OPPT Director Jeffery Morris, Ph.D., noting the thoughtful and insightful staff comments received on the earlier proposed reorganization, provides a two-week internal commenting period for the new proposal ending on May 9, 2018.

How to organize OPPT has been a perpetual conundrum with shifting “best approaches” over time.  From our perspective, merging the existing chemicals function of the Chemical Control Division (CCD) with those of the National Program Chemicals Division (NPCD) into an Existing Chemicals Management Division makes sense.  The existing NPCD branches that cover legacy chemical issues (e.g., lead, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB), mercury, and asbestos) will presumably become risk management branches tasked with overseeing risk management activities for those chemicals under the amended Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA or new TSCA).  The other “first ten” risk evaluation chemicals that are currently being managed by the existing chemicals staff in CCD will become other risk management branches in the new structure.  Creating a separate New Chemicals Management Division also makes sense in light of the challenges encountered by the office in its early implementation of Section 5 under new TSCA.  Such a division will ensure a tight management focus on new chemicals issues without the need to also juggle complex existing chemicals issues.  While this could present concerns regarding divergent decisions and policies between the two divisions, this seems to be less of an issue since the requirements in Sections 5 and 6 differ so much.

More information and commentary on this reorganization is available in our memorandum.