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May 20, 2020

EPA Will Not Meet June 22, 2020, Deadline for Issuing Final Risk Evaluations

Lynn L. Bergeson Carla N. Hutton

On May 20, 2020, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee held an oversight hearing on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler was the only witness.  During the hearing, Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) questioned Wheeler about the risk evaluations being done under the amended Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), particularly the risk evaluation of asbestos.  Wheeler acknowledged that EPA probably will not meet the June 22, 2020, deadline for issuing final risk evaluations for the first ten chemicals.  According to Wheeler, EPA is spending more time on these first risk evaluations to make sure they get them right.  Wheeler noted that the peer reviews are taking longer than expected and that the interagency review process has taken longer than anticipated.  Wheeler stated that he thinks EPA is on track to have at least two of the first ten risk evaluations done by June 2020 and the remainder by the end of summer 2020.  Regarding the asbestos risk evaluation, EPA will do a separate supplemental risk evaluation on the legacy uses since EPA can likely complete the final risk evaluation of asbestos this summer.  Merkley asked Wheeler whether he would commit to examining all significant pathways of exposure to asbestos, including air, waste, and drinking water.  Wheeler responded that when a chemical under the TSCA review process is already being regulated under a different program, EPA decided early on that in setting out the parameters for the TSCA risk evaluations, it would not double regulate to focus its time on the areas of the chemicals that are unregulated at this point.  Wheeler states that the way to meet the strict deadlines required by TSCA is to allow the other programs that are already regulating aspects of those chemicals to continue to regulate them, whether it is a hazardous air pollutant under the air program or a regulation under the water program.