Pruitt Willing to Work With Appropriators on Chemical Testing

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By Pat Rizzuto

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said he is willing to work with Congress on funding the agency’s process to evaluate chemicals, pesticides, and environmental contaminants for endocrine system health impacts.

The Trump administration’s fiscal year 2018 budget request proposed to zero out funding dedicated to the Endocrine Disruptor Screening Program, but Pruitt told lawmakers during a June 15 hearing that the agency’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention would still continue implementing it.

The program, which is required by law, tests substances for potential effects on the estrogen, androgen and thyroid hormone systems, which affect reproduction, neurological development, and other critical biological functions.

The EPA has completed its review of some substances, including 2,4-D, the active ingredient in several herbicides sold by Dow AgroSciences LLC, and atrazine, a weedkiller made by Syngenta Crop Protection LLC. A full list of company products evaluated by EPA shows the status of the reviews and further testing requests that may be in jeopardy if the program is underfunded or cut completely.

Funding Cut Criticized

Pesticide and chemical makers support the risk-based approach the EPA uses to identify potential endocrine disruptors, Daniella Taveau, a former trade negotiator with the EPA who now serves as a regulatory and trade specialist for King & Spalding LLP in Washington, told Bloomberg BNA after the administration released its budget blueprint. Without that U.S. approach, a hazard-based method that doesn’t consider exposure levels, which is preferred by some European governments, could affect global trade, she said.

During the hearing, Democrats on a House Appropriations subcommittee criticized Pruitt for the proposed cuts to the endocrine program. Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), ranking member of the House Committee on Appropriations, said the program can identify chemicals that have the potential to cause men and women to have a hard time having children, increase incidences of breast cancer, and cause neurodevelopmental delays in children.

“This is the perfect example of senseless cuts that will cost us more in the long run with threats to public health and safety,” Lowey said. “How do you justify eliminating funding for this program?”

Pruitt said the proposed budget stands. “But, you raise a very, very important question,” about a program that has had significant impacts, he said. Pruitt invited ideas from Lowey and other lawmakers about how the program could be addressed or its responsibilities handled in another way.

Rep. Betty McCollum (D-Minn.), said she was pleased to hear Pruitt’s assurances about the importance of the endocrine program, but questioned how the EPA would have “any tools in the tool box” to address endocrine disruptors or other priority programs under the administration’s proposed EPA budget.

Chemical Rules `On Track’

Pruitt also told lawmakers the EPA is on track to issue three final chemical regulations by June 22 as required by the 2016 Toxic Substances Control Act amendments.

The three rules would describe the procedures the EPA would use to:

  •  update its chemical inventory to distinguish between chemicals active in commerce and chemicals that have been in commerce, but are dormant;
  •  decide which chemicals are priorities for risk assessment; and
  •  assess chemical risks.
Issuing those rules as Congress mandated and eliminating a backlog of new chemical applications that had developed since the chemicals law was updated sends a good message to citizens that the EPA’s oversight of chemicals is a priority, Pruitt said.

“It also provides certainty to industry that as new chemicals go into commerce EPA will review them within the time lines Congress set,” Pruitt said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Pat Rizzuto in Washington at prizzuto@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Rachael Daigle at rdaigle@bna.com

For More Information

Video of Pruitt discussing funding for chemicals and Superfund is available for viewing at https://www.c-span.org/video/?c4674023/pruitt-budget.

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