Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) announced on January 5, 2022, that it filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to compel the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to disclose reports submitted pursuant to Section 8(e) of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). According to the complaint, PEER submitted a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request in November 2021 seeking records demonstrating how EPA deals with Section 8(e) reports. PEER states that it requested both Section 8(e) reports submitted to EPA and internal policies regarding publicly posting and using Section 8(e) reports. PEER notes that its FOIA request “built upon information reported in a November 2021 article in The Intercept noting that EPA had only posted one 8(e) report publicly since 2019 and describing disagreement over how the EPA processes 8(e) reports internally.”
In its announcement, PEER states that TSCA requires industry to notify EPA within 30 days when it obtains information that reasonably supports the conclusion that a chemical substance presents a substantial risk of injury to health or the environment. According to PEER, in early 2019, EPA stopped posting these industry reports in its public-facing database or on an easily searchable internal database. While industry submitted and EPA published more than 1,000 substantial risk reports from 2017 through 2018, PEER states that since 2019, EPA has posted only one to the public database. EPA scientists informed PEER that another approximately 1,240 reports have been received but sequestered.
PEER states that “[a]n EPA spokesperson told a news reporter that the person who had been responsible for posting these reports had retired in December 2018; and the agency lacked fundings to replace this single employee. However, at the same time, the agency finances an online tool enabling chemical companies to track their products through the approval process – internally called the ‘pizza tracker.’”
PEER asks the court to enter an order declaring that EPA wrongfully withheld requested documents and to issue a permanent injunction directing EPA to disclose all wrongfully withheld documents.