By Pat Rizzuto
Dec. 18 --More than half the confidential business information claims that the Environmental Protection Agency thought chemical manufacturers had made in 2010 when it launched a declassification effort involved information that companies had never claimed warranted such protection, Bloomberg BNA has learned in interviews with agency and industry officials.
The agency's chemical data tracking system was overreporting the confidential business information, or CBI, claims, Jim Jones, assistant EPA administrator for chemical safety and pollution prevention, told Bloomberg BNA Dec. 16.
“But when we dug in, there weren't as many claims as we thought,” Jones said.
Jones updated Bloomberg BNA on the status of the Toxic Substances Control Act CBI Declassification challenge, which the EPA announced in March 2010 .
Through that challenge--part of the Obama administration's broader transparency efforts--the EPA asked chemical manufacturers to review old and new claims that chemical names and other information they submitted to the agency had to be kept confidential.
TSCA allows a variety of information to be protected lest public disclosure give competitors access to proprietary data, such as one chemical manufacturer's toxicity data for a chemical it is researching for possible development.
When it launched the disclosure initiative, the EPA thought that chemical manufacturers had made more than 22,000 claims that information they submitted to the agency needed CBI protection, Christina Franz, a senior director at the American Chemistry Council, told Bloomberg BNA in late November.
It turned out, however, that well over half the alleged CBI claims were never made in the first place, she said.
Since 2010, the agency has determined that 12,043 of 22,483 alleged CBI claims were never made, according to the EPA's website.
Claims made in 909 cases have been declassified, and the agency and companies have agreed that 3,349 CBI claims continue to be valid.
The agency is completing its investigation of about 7,000 more alleged confidentiality claims, the website said.
For the EPA, the exercise identified a tracking system problem that needed to be addressed, Jones said.
The bulk of CBI claims turned out never to have been made, he said.
For companies, the effort helped them clean house, Jones said.
Often, a company did not even know there were CBI claims for a chemical it made because the claim originally was asserted by a different manufacturer it had since acquired, Jones said.
In other cases, companies realized they no longer needed certain information to be kept from the public, he said.
Franz said chemical manufacturers are continuing to work with the EPA on the remaining 7,000 files.
“We're proud our members are stepping up to the plate,” she said.
The EPA plans to issue by the spring of 2014 a proposed rule that would require chemical manufacturers to reassert and resubstantiate after a set number of years their confidentiality claims, Jones said.
“The EPA expects this action would increase transparency and availability of public health and environmental effects information on chemicals in commerce,” the agency said in the fall regulatory agenda.
By Pat Rizzuto
To contact the reporter on this story: Pat Rizzuto in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Larry Pearl at email@example.com
Information on the CBI Declassification Challenge program is available at http://www.epa.gov/oppt/existingchemicals/pubs/declassification-cbi.html.
Copyright 2013, The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc.
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