EPA’s Congressional Justification for FY 2024 Budget Includes Information on Safer Choice, EPP, and
By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has posted the justification for its fiscal year (FY) 2024 appropriation estimates for the Committee on Appropriations (Congressional Justification (CJ)). According to the CJ, work in the Pollution Prevention (P2) Program supports Objective 7.2: Promote Pollution Prevention (P2) under Goal 7: Ensure Safety of Chemicals for People and the Environment. The FY 2024 budget includes $29 million and 69.2 full-time equivalents (FTE) to support the P2 Program in the Environmental Program and Management (EPM) appropriation, an increase of $16 million and 18 FTEs above the FY 2023 enacted budget. The CJ states that FY 2024 funding will continue to support the following P2 programs.
Safer Choice Program
The CJ states that Safer Choice is a voluntary program that certifies safer products so consumers, businesses, and purchasers can find products that work well and contain ingredients safer for human health and the environment. EPA certifies and allows use of the Safer Choice label on products containing ingredients that meet stringent health and environmental criteria. Under the same stringent criteria, EPA certifies disinfectant products registered under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) using the Design for the Environment logo. According to the CJ, the Safer Choice Program will expand into additional product categories and seek to increase consumer and commercial recognition of Safer Choice products. In FY 2024, EPA will continue its Partner of the Year Awards Program, recognizing organizations and companies for their leadership in formulating products made with safer ingredients and making them available to communities.
The CJ states that in FY 2024, Safer Choice will integrate and address environmental justice (EJ) concerns through outreach and partnership activities. Efforts to make Safer Choice-certified products more accessible to communities with EJ concerns will expand, with particular focus on low-income, Tribal, and indigenous populations and other vulnerable populations such as the elderly, children, and those with pre-existing medical conditions. According to the CJ, Safer Choice will work with retailers and product manufacturers to help them develop more products containing safer chemical ingredients that are easy to identify and purchase. Safer Choice will also work to empower custodial staff and house cleaning companies and enable facilities through education to gain access to Safer Choice-certified products to improve indoor air quality and reduce exposure-related asthma.
Environmentally Preferable Purchasing (EPP) Program
The EPP Program implements direction provided to EPA in several statutes and Executive Orders that mandate sustainable federal procurement, including through development and use of sustainability standards, specifications, and ecolabels. Beginning in FY 2023, the EPP Program is expanding the EPA Recommendations of Specifications, Standards, and Ecolabels for Federal Purchasing in new categories to support the Biden Administration’s environmental and human health goals and mandates, including net-zero emissions procurement, low embodied carbon construction materials, and products that do not contain per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). According to the CJ, the EPP Program has received applications for over 70 standards/ecolabels from 29 organizations to be considered for assessment and recommendation in federal purchasing. These cover the following high-impact federal procurement sectors: food and cafeteria services; uniforms/clothing; professional services; laboratories and healthcare; building/construction; infrastructure; and landscaping.
The CJ notes that EPA is characterizing PFAS provisions of existing private-sector sustainability standards, ecolabels, and certifications to identify products and purchase categories associated with key PFAS use and to prioritize PFAS conditions of use. In FY 2024, EPA will enhance public protection from potential effects of PFAS through recommendations of additional standards/ecolabels to help purchasers identify products that meet specific environmental performance criteria. EPA will conduct the following activities:
- Assess and recommend additional ecolabels and standards with criteria specifically supporting reduction or elimination of PFAS use in key product categories not yet covered by the EPA Recommendations for Standards, Specifications, and Ecolabels for Federal Purchasing.
- Build, implement, maintain, and update tools for integrating EPA recommendations into federal e-procurement systems, initiate identification and monitoring of relevant government contracts for sustainable purchasing requirements, and develop tools to ensure that PFAS data are captured for compliance in the Federal Procurement Data System (FPDS).
- Initiate and engage in private-sector standards development activities that address product categories known to contain PFAS.
- Work with the General Services Administration (GSA) and others to create a central product registry to identify products that meet EPA’s assessment of PFAS specifications.
- Collaborate with the Department of Defense (DOD) on performance-based, rather than material-based, specifications and standards for equipment (e.g., textiles, coatings, firefighting foam) for DOD and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) uses.
- Work with other federal agencies and the private sector to initiate a performance-based technology innovation challenge for a set of PFAS-free product categories for which use of non-PFAS options could be technically and economically feasible with respect to key federal purchasing categories.
According to the CJ, to support further EPA’s goals for equity and EJ, the EPP Program will begin to develop and implement training and outreach for disadvantaged communities, as well as state, Tribal, and local governments, to assist in facilitating product and service procurement choices that are environmentally sound and promote human and environmental health.
Green Chemistry Program
According to the CJ, the Green Chemistry Program fosters the sustainable design of chemical products and processes. It also analyzes green chemistry innovations and works with partners and external stakeholders to facilitate market adoption and penetration of new commercially successful chemistries and technologies. The CJ states that the program’s Green Chemistry Challenge Awards serve a critical role in raising the profile, importance, and credibility of innovative and market-ready green and sustainable chemistry technologies. In FY 2024, the Green Chemistry Program will begin to work with awardees and nominees to pursue the goal of market-oriented environmental and economic progress through increased adoption of these innovations. The CJ notes that EPA will support and lead portions of EPA’s responsibilities for implementation of the Sustainable Chemistry Research and Development Act of 2020. More information on the Sustainable Chemistry Research and Development Act of 2020 is available in our January 19, 2021, memorandum.