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By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
 
On May 20, 2020, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Office of Inspector General (OIG) released a report entitled Further Efforts Needed to Uphold Scientific Integrity Policy at EPA.  OIG conducted an Agency-wide survey to determine whether EPA’s Scientific Integrity Policy is being implemented as intended to ensure scientific integrity throughout EPA.  OIG received 4,320 responses (a 23.5 percent response rate), showing that 3,987 respondents were aware of or had some familiarity with the Scientific Integrity Policy.  According to OIG, among those respondents with a basis to judge, the majority (56 percent; 1,025 of 1,842) were satisfied with the overall implementation of the Policy.  OIG states that the survey also revealed some concerns with specific aspects of scientific integrity at EPA, including dissatisfaction with EPA’s culture of scientific integrity (59 percent; 1,425 of 2,402) and the release of scientific information to the public (57 percent; 1,049 of 1,842).  OIG recommends that EPA’s deputy administrator lead an effort to examine the causes associated with the scientific integrity concerns identified in the survey and communicate the results to EPA employees, including planned actions to address the causes.  OIG also made 11 recommendations to the EPA science advisor, including developing procedures for addressing and resolving allegations of scientific integrity violations, communicating the outcomes of reports of scientific integrity violations, and improving the release of scientific information to the public.  OIG states that EPA agreed with its recommendations and provided acceptable corrective actions.  According to OIG, EPA has completed two recommendations, and the others are resolved with corrective actions pending.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
 

On May 28, 2020, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Office of Inspector General (OIG) issued a report entitled EPA Toxic Substances Control Act Consent Orders Need Better Coordination.  OIG conducted the evaluation to determine what actions EPA took to verify compliance with the requirements of the 2009 Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) Premanufacture Notice Consent Order with DuPont (responsibilities transferred to The Chemours Company in 2015) to prevent the release of GenX chemicals in the Cape Fear River in North Carolina.  OIG notes that GenX chemicals are a type of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) found in surface water, groundwater, drinking water, rain water, and air emissions.  OIG found insufficient communication and coordination between the two EPA offices responsible for developing and enforcing the consent order requirements designed to reduce risks in the manufacture of GenX chemicals.  Under the 2009 Consent Order, EPA required DuPont to determine how to recover and capture 99 percent of GenX’s manufacturing discharges and air emissions.  The Consent Order was not reviewed or approved by the Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance (OECA), which is responsible for conducting inspections to verify compliance, however.  Until June 2017, EPA’s actions to verify compliance with the 2009 Consent Order and new chemicals testing requirements consisted of tracking and reviewing information provided by the manufacturer.  According to OIG, following the local media coverage of the presence of GenX chemicals in the Cape Fear River in 2017, Region 4 and EPA contractors conducted EPA’s first on-site compliance monitoring inspection at the Fayetteville Works facility, which manufactures GenX.  OIG found that the Region 4 inspectors were unaware of the 2009 Consent Order and its requirements until the inspection was requested by EPA headquarters.
 
OIG recommends that EPA establish and implement processes:

  1. For OECA to review and approve the terms and conditions of TSCA Section 5(e) Consent Orders that it is responsible for verifying during compliance monitoring and enforcement activities; and
     
  2. To provide final TSCA Section 5(e) Consent Orders to regions and verify that the regions have the final consent orders.

OIG states that EPA “did not provide an acceptable corrective action for Recommendation 1, and we consider this recommendation unresolved.”  For Recommendation 2, EPA provided an alternative course of action that OIG finds acceptable.  OIG considers Recommendation 2 resolved with corrective action pending.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
 
The Office of Inspector General (OIG) for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced on February 27, 2020, that it plans to begin its audit of the EPA’s Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) Service Fee Fund financial statements for the period from inception, June 22, 2016, to September 30, 2018.  According to the Project Notification, the audit objectives are to determine whether:

  1. The financial statements are fairly presented in all material respects in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles;
  2. EPA’s internal control structure over financial reporting related to the financial statements is in place and provides reasonable assurance that:
    • Financial transactions are executed in compliance with applicable laws, regulations, contracts, and grant agreements;
    • Assets are safeguarded against loss from unauthorized acquisition, use, or disposition; and
    • Transactions are properly recorded, processed, and summarized to permit the preparation of reliable financial statements;
  3. EPA has complied with laws and regulations that would have a direct and material effect on the financial statements; and
  4. The information and manner of presentation contained in the Management’s Discussion and Analysis, and any other accompanying information, are materially consistent with the information contained in the principal statements.

OIG states that the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act requires that the annual audit of the financial statements also include:

  1. An analysis of the fees collected and amounts disbursed;
  2. The reasonableness of the fees in place as of the date of the audit to meet current and projected costs of administering the provisions of the law; and
  3. The number of requests for a risk evaluation made by manufacturers.

OIG notes that since fees have not been collected, however, it does not anticipate work in this area for the financial statements for the period from inception, June 22, 2016, to September 30, 2018.

 

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Tags: Fees, Audit, OIG

 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton

On May 1, 2019, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Office of Inspector General (OIG) sent a memorandum to Alexandria Dapolito Dunn, Assistant Administrator, Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, announcing that it “plans to begin preliminary research on the Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics processes to implement the work to meet statutory deadlines of the Lautenberg Act.”  OIG’s objectives are to determine whether EPA has met the deadlines imposed by the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act (Lautenberg Act) and whether EPA has the staff, resources, and management controls in place to meet future statutory deadlines.

As reported in our March 6, 2019, memorandum, “GAO Reviews EPA’s IRIS Assessment Efforts and Implementation of TSCA Reforms,” the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) recently assessed whether EPA has demonstrated progress implementing the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) as amended by the Lautenberg Act.  In its report, Chemical Assessments:  Status of EPA’s Efforts to Produce Assessments and Implement the Toxic Substances Control Act, GAO found that while EPA has responded to the initial statutory deadlines in TSCA, as amended by the Lautenberg Act, challenges remain.  As stated in our memorandum, the report draws attention to the challenges facing EPA, including:

  • Pending litigation by environmental groups against many of the final rules;
  • Ensuring appropriate resources and staffing to meet the increased workload required under amended TSCA;
  • Need for development of internal guidance documents to ensure consistency in EPA’s approaches;
  • Ensuring that new chemical review is efficient and predictable, and
  • Attempting to move forward with a major reorganization of the Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics.

More information is available in our memorandum.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson, Richard E. Engler, Ph.D., and Carla N. Hutton

On July 20, 2018, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Office of Inspector General (OIG) released a report on its audit of EPA’s implementation of the OIG recommendations for the Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Awards (PGCCA) Program.  The PGCCA Program is sponsored by the EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention (OCSPP) to promote the environmental and economic benefits of developing and using green chemistry by recognizing industry innovations.  In 2015, OIG reported that award results submitted to the EPA’s Pollution Prevention (P2) Program from PGCCA recipients were not adequately supported or transparent.  In its audit, OIG found that EPA discontinued the use of unverified PGCCA results in EPA performance metrics, but “a lack of documented controls presents risk that these data may be used in the future.”

Please see the full memorandum for more information including a short history on performance metrics of the Green Chemistry Program.