EPA Hit With 2 Lawsuits Over Safety Review for Chemicals

By Ayana Byrd Aug 15, 2017

Earthjustice filed two lawsuits in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California yesterday (August 15) that challenge how the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) performs safety reviews on chemicals that harm families and workers.

According to a statement released by nonprofit environmental law firm Earthjustice:

Earthjustice—on behalf of organizations representing consumers, people from low-income communities of color, Alaska Natives, parents and teachers of children with learning disabilities, workers and scientists—has brought two suits against the Trump Administration for weakening key rules establishing how the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will regulate toxic chemicals found in consumer products, building materials and work places, as well as in our drinking water and food.

The suits specifically focus on the EPA’s Prioritization and Risk Evaluation rules, which were both passed under the Trump Administration to establish how the agency will carry out its jurisdiction under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).

Per the EPA website, “The Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976 provides EPA with authority to require reporting, record-keeping and testing requirements, and restrictions relating to chemical substances and/or mixtures. Certain substances are generally excluded from TSCA, including, among others, food, drugs, cosmetics and pesticides.” Chemicals covered under TSCA include detergents, household cleaners and asbestos.

Congress overhauled the TSCA in 2016 for the first time. The update, per an article in The Atlantic, expanded the powers of the EPA, giving “teeth” to a law that “ostensibly regulates household and industrial compounds (chemicals in the stuff under the sink or in the garage).” It requires the EPA to conduct comprehensive risk evaluations of chemicals without regard to cost, and with special attention to the risks posed to vulnerable populations, according to Earthjustice.

“After Congress took bipartisan action to make desperately needed updates to our chemical safety laws, the Trump Administration has turned back the clock, leaving families and workers at risk,” said Eve Gartner, an attorney at Earthjustice, in the statement. “This lawsuit is about one thing: holding the Trump EPA to the letter of the law and ensuring it fulfills its mandate to protect the public.”

The lawsuits were filed by Earthjustice on behalf of eight groups, including WE ACT for Environmental Justice, Learning Disabilities Association of America and the Union of Concerned Scientists. Read the two complaints here and here.