Thursday, June 18, 2009

Obama Administration Shuts Down ChAMP Chemical Program?

EPA sources report that the Obama administration and EPA leadership are shutting down EPA's Chemical Assessment and Management Program (ChAMP). ChAMP was initiated as a mechanism to implement the Montebello Agreement, also called the Security & Prosperity Partnership between the three countries (Canada, Mexico and the US), signed in August 2007 by former President Bush.

Apparently EPA staff were told of this decision in an internal meeting within the last two weeks. It remains unclear what might replace it. However, it should be known that highly placed EPA executives believe the report misrepresents what is actually happening, which is merely to "renovate" the program rather than shut it down completely.

If the decision is to shut ChAMP down completely, it would come as a bit of a surprise to EPA watchers. Just a few months ago EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson had indicated that she wanted to accelerate the full assessments of high priority chemicals. For the time being it actually looks like the risk-based prioritization activities have ceased pending further review. Jackson also suggested that she had been leaning toward a ChAMP like program rather than the original Kid Safe Chemical Act concept previously introduced to Congress by Senator Lautenberg and Congressman Waxman. TSCA reform has been a hot topic of discussion in Congress and Lautenberg repeated only a few days ago that he plans to reintroduce the bill later this year, though the bill is expected to be substantially altered from the original to incorporate new ideas...and some thought, ChAMP-like provisions.

According to the Montebello Agreement, the United States agreed to complete risk characterizations by 2012 on more than 9,000 chemicals produced above 25,000 pounds per year. The regional agreement also provided for the sharing of scientific information and technical understanding, best practices and research on new approaches to chemical testing and assessment. The agreement established additional goals to be met by 2020, which include creating and updating chemical inventories in all three countries, as well as coordinating the management of chemicals in North America as outlined in other international agreements. ChAMP was on its way toward meeting those goals, and in fact was anticipated to be expanded to take on additional enhancements that would look at inorganic chemicals and reset the TSCA Inventory.

Obstensibly a voluntary program which put much of the onus for evaluation on EPA, ChAMP is the second large voluntary program that has been shut down by the current administration - the first being the Performance Track program. There is no question that the ChAMP program takes substantial EPA resources, and this announcement may simply be a sign that the administration is intending to revamp the program in a way that allows its stated goals to be pursued within a revised Kid Safe Act when it is reintroduced later this year.

I will continue to update as I get more information.

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