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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 March 3, 2020, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the availability of a supplemental notice of proposed rulemaking (SNPRM) to the Strengthening Transparency in Regulatory Science proposed rule.  EPA notes that the SNPRM “is not a new rulemaking; rather, it provides clarifications on certain terms and aspects of the 2018 proposed rule.”  The SNPRM:

  • Proposes that the scope of the rulemaking applies to influential scientific information, as well as significant regulatory decisions;
     
  • Defines and clarifies that the proposed rule applies to data and models underlying both pivotal science and pivotal regulatory science;
     
  • Proposes a modified approach to the availability provisions for data and models that would underlie influential scientific information and significant regulatory decisions, as well as an alternate approach; and
     
  • Clarifies the ability of the Administrator to grant exemptions.

EPA published the SNPRM in the Federal Register on March 18, 2020.  85 Fed. Reg. 15396.  EPA states that it “is taking comment on whether to use its housekeeping authority independently or in conjunction with appropriate environmental statutory provisions as authority for taking this action.”  On April 2, 2020, EPA announced that it would extend the comment period to May 18, 2020.  EPA anticipates promulgating a final rule later in 2020.  More information is available in our March 9, 2020, memorandum, “EPA Releases Supplemental Proposed Rule to the Proposed Rule on Strengthening Transparency in Regulatory Science.”


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
 
The House Science, Space, and Technology Subcommittee on Research and Technology will hold a hearing on “Benign by Design:  Innovations in Sustainable Chemistry” on July 25, 2019.  Witnesses will include:

  • Dr. Tim Persons, Chief Scientist and Managing Director, Science, Technology Assessment, and Analytics, U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO);
     
  • Dr. John Warner, President and Chief Technology Officer, Warner Babcock Institute for Green Chemistry;
     
  • Dr. Julie Zimmerman, Professor and Senior Associate Dean, School of Forestry and Environmental Studiesa and Deputy Director, Center for Green Chemistry and Green Engineering, Yale University;
     
  • Ms. Anne Kolton, Executive Vice President, Communications, Sustainability, and Market Outreach, American Chemistry Council; and
     
  • Mr. Mitchell Toomey, Director of Sustainability, BASF in North America.

 

By Lynn L. Bergeson, Christopher R. Bryant, and Margaret R. Graham

On May 25, 2018, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) extended until August 16, 2018, the comment period on its proposed rule titled “Strengthening Transparency in Regulatory Science.”  83 Fed. Reg. 24255.  EPA also announced that it will hold a public hearing on the controversial proposed rule on July 17, 2018.  The April 30, 2018, proposal (83 Fed. Reg. 18768) is intended to strengthen the transparency of EPA regulatory science.  The proposed regulation provides that for the science pivotal to EPA’s significant regulatory actions, EPA will ensure that the data and models underlying the science is publicly available in a manner sufficient for validation and analysis.  The rule has sparked controversy, as many stakeholders view it as an attempt by EPA to dilute science-based regulatory decisions.  Among other reasons for the extension is the request made of 20 Senators on May 15 seeking an extension of the comment period on the controversial proposal.  They joined various state Attorneys General, among others, in claiming the proposal had far-reaching implications and required far more than 30 days for comment.

More information about the proposed science rule is available in our memorandum EPA Releases Strengthening Transparency in Regulatory Science Proposed Rule.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Margaret R. Graham

On April 26, 2018, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt was grilled by Members of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce, Subcommittee on Environment at a hearing titled The Fiscal Year 2019 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Budget.  The budget was plainly not the primary topic as the House Committee Members covered a lot of ground.  Pruitt fielded many questions and comments from House Democrats on his alleged ethical lapses regarding spending, security details, retaliation towards EPA employees who reportedly questioned his practices, and concerns about a hostile work environment.  Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle expressed concern over the installation of a secure phone booth in his office.  His opening statement addressed these criticisms only vaguely, stating that they are merely a distraction and an attempt to “attack and derail the President’s agenda and these administration’s priorities.”  There were also questions concerning the delay of the proposed rule banning the use of methylene chloride, and criticism regarding EPA’s recent proposed rule to strengthen transparency in regulatory science (the “secret” Science Rule). 

No attempt is made here to summarize the lengthy hearing.

Pruitt’s testimony statement is available here.  It does not contain information on the Science Rule, but it briefly references the implementation of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) in a section entitled “Ensuring the Safety of Chemicals in Commerce.”

More information on the many TSCA implementation initiatives is available on our TSCA Reform News & Information webpage, as well as the TSCAblogTM.  A summary of Pruitt’s testimony before the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works is available in our blog item “Pruitt Addresses Legacy Issues, TSCA Implementation in Oversight Hearing.” 


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Margaret R. Graham

On April 19, 2018, the Office of Management and Budget’s (OMB) Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) received the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposed rule entitled “Strengthening Transparency and Validity in Regulatory Science.”  This new proposed rule, item 2080-AA14, has not been published in the regulatory agenda; the only information available concerning the content of this rule is its title.

 On April 11, 2018, OIRA received an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking from EPA entitled “Increasing Consistency and Transparency in Considering Costs and Benefits in the Rulemaking Process.”  The OIRA 2017 Fall Regulatory Agenda for this rulemaking, item RIN 2010-AA12, states that EPA is considering “developing implementing regulations that would increase consistency across EPA divisions and offices, increase reliability to affected stakeholders, and increase transparency during the development of regulatory actions,” and that by developing implementing regulations through a notice-and-comment rulemaking process “it will provide the public with a better understanding on how EPA is evaluating costs when developing a regulatory action and allow the public to provide better feedback to EPA on potential future proposed rules.”

 More information on regulatory agenda items is available on our blog under key phrase regulatory agenda.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton

On March 22, 2018, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt appointed 11 additional members to the Science Advisory Committee on Chemicals.  Under the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act, the purpose of the Committee is to provide independent advice and expert consultation, at the request of the EPA Administrator, with respect to the scientific and technical aspects of risk assessments, methodologies, and pollution prevention measures or approaches supporting implementation of the Act.  According to EPA, these additional members “will increase the balance of scientific perspectives and add experts with experience in labor, public interest, animal protection and chemical manufacturing and processing to the committee.”  The additional 11 members -- three from non-governmental organizations (NGO), four from industry, and four from academia or governmental organizations -- will supplement the 18 expert members that were appointed on January 19, 2017.  The Committee will meet three to four times a year for two years, and its charter can be extended.  EPA has not yet scheduled the Committee’s first meeting.

Two of the members have reportedly declined the appointment.  Dr. Michael Wilson, National Director for Occupational and Environmental Health at the BlueGreen Alliance, “notified EPA that he was unable to accept the appointment,” according to a spokesperson for the BlueGreen Alliance.  Dr. Jennifer McPartland, Senior Scientist at the Environmental Defense Fund, has also declined the appointment.  Ruthann Rudel, Director of Research at the Silent Spring Institute, stated that she is “collecting some advice and information” and has not decided whether to accept the appointment.