Friday, September 17, 2010

USEPA Streamlines Enforceable Consent Agreement Process

One of the ways that EPA has to collect data on chemicals is to use an "enforceable consent agreement (ECA)."  These ECAs are semi-pseudo-voluntary (sort of) agreements in which industry (more or less) consents to provide EPA with test data on their chemicals.  This saves EPA from having to go through the long, oft-times futile, process of promulgating a formal Section 4 test rule.  For industry, it gives companies a chance to negotiate the terms of the testing program, including what tests to run, what to test, and how long they have to finish the work.

But EPA and industry alike have been frustrated by the time it takes to negotiate the ECA.  So yesterday the EPA published the final rule in the Federal Register.  It not only allows EPA to set a firm deadline on when negotiations must end, but also changes how EPA can initiate the discussion.  The rule becomes effective on October 18, 2010.

The new ECA rule is just one of many steps the EPA has taken in the last two years to take full advantage of the authority it has under the Toxic Substances Control Act.  In the past EPA has been slow to push its authority, and in fact has been rather gun-shy about mobilizing resources for efforts it felt would just be for naught anyway (10 years of work to ban asbestos and then have it voided by the courts will do that to an Agency).  But times have changed, at least EPA believes they have changed.  Industry has been supportive of a modernization of TSCA, and while the legislative process on developing a new law is painstakingly slow, they seem less inclined to challenge EPA's new-found assertiveness.

Of course, the election may change that.

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