Monday, August 23, 2010

EPA to Issue HPV Chemical Test Rule; Hold Public Meeting

EPA is preparing to issue a new HPV test rule.  This will be the third (or possibly fourth) such rule, though only one of them has ever gone final.  The test rules, issued under the authority of TSCA Section 4, are designed to require testing of chemicals that are "orphans" of the High Production Volume Chemical Challenge Program.  These lost orphan chemicals are one reason why TSCA reform is needed.

So what is an orphan?  When the HPV Challenge program started in 1998, with much fanfare as then Vice-President Al Gore made the Earth Day announcement, there were high hopes that industry would voluntarily provide data on about 2800 of the highest production volume chemicals in the US.  The program had some caveats to it, which I won't rehash here, but by the (extended) 2005 completion date only about half of the chemicals had full data packages submitted.  Five years later that number has barely moved.  And that doesn't even count all the chemicals that have become HPV since the initial program list was written in stone.  It also doesn't include several hundred chemicals for which no one even bothered to volunteer data.  These are the "orphan" chemicals.

EPA has been trying to require testing for these nearly 300 unsponsored "orphan" chemicals.  They have gone through the iterative process of identifying the need, establishing the regulatory authority, and publishing "Proposed Test Rules" in the Federal Register.  Following comment periods these rules should be finalized and the required testing begun by the manufacturers.  In reality the proposed rules have languished unfinalized for a very long time, the earlier ones measured in years.  Only one has become final.

Today the EPA is supposed to announce an open meeting to be held on September 9th to listen to comments from interested parties, including the general public, the manufacturers and downstream users, and various health and environmental advocacy groups.  Here is the link to the meeting announcement.  Still, one has to wonder whether this is just another baby step to nowhere.  The elections are still a little over 2 months away, and Congress is hunkered down in reelection mode with no energy or desire to do any legislating.  Meanwhile, stakeholders in industry and the advocacy communities appear to have gone into bunker mode in an attempt to protect their individual objectives.  So whether this action means much is anyone's guess.

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