Click here to watch Ranking Member Capito’s opening remarks from the committee hearing.
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee held a hearing titled, “Oversight of Toxic Substances Control Act Amendments Implementation,” which featured testimony from Dr. Michal Freedhoff, assistant administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention.
Below is the opening statement of Ranking Member Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) as delivered.
“Thank you, Chairman Carper, and thanks for holding the hearing.
“Dr. Freedhoff, thank you for being here. Thank you for coming to my office last week. I think we had a very fruitful discussion and very substantive so I appreciate that.
“For three years the Biden administration has been implementing the 2016 TSCA amendments.
“And yet, the slow pace, as the chairman mentioned, of new chemical approvals has not improved.
“The scapegoat of blaming the prior administration in no longer holding water, three years is long enough to take the reins.
“Reviews are regularly blowing months past the deadline, at best, sometimes even years.
“Approving submissions within the deadline is not an aspirational goal, it is a legal obligation for the EPA to ensure that innovation is not stifled by bureaucracy.
“Agency timeliness in the chemical space is crucial to maintaining a competitiveness in a global market, and also achieving what I believe a point of bipartisan agreement: expanding key industries and onshoring critical supply chains right here in this country.
“Chemical manufacturers in China are more than happy to fill the void of U.S.-based companies are stuck in regulatory purgatory by the EPA.
“The slow pace of new chemical approvals forces continued reliance on older chemistries that may have not just lower performance, but higher risk profiles, and fewer environmental benefits than newer alternatives.
“According to a 2022 survey of American chemical manufacturers, 70 percent reported that they have decided to introduce new chemicals, and therefore make the requisite investments and job creation, outside of the U.S….
“Slower reviews create a negative spiral for the EPA’s own work.
“Slower reviews mean fewer submissions, and with fewer submissions, the agency collects fewer fees to implement TSCA.
“In addition to the slow place, a troubling ‘zero-risk’ approach at the EPA has taken hold of the TSCA program.
“Since 2021, the number of cases that received a determination of ‘not likely to present risk’ has dropped by 75 percent.
“It seems that no volume of data provided by applicants is satisfactory to the EPA to drop its predisposed, worst-case assumptions of risk.
“Previously, you stated that it is a submitter’s responsibility to ‘come in earlier’ to talk about the data that your assessors require.
“Those that have heeded that advice have not had positive things to report back.
“Stakeholders have complained of a lack of responsiveness from the EPA staff, moving of goalposts, and presumptions of denial at the start of the process, as well as a failure of the EPA to consider data and approvals from regulators in Europe and Asia.
“In short, they found no benefit from making contact with EPA early and often.
“Your office seems to have a mission creep where no data can satisfy risk assessments, and the EPA is intruding upon other agencies, like OSHA, to which Congress has provided relevant authorities.
“This ‘zero-risk’ approach undermines the intent of the 2016 amendments and, ironically, will hamstring the Biden administration’s ability to realize its own goals.
“As an example, in 2023, the EPA selected a company to receive a ‘Green Chemistry Challenge’ award for developing a new bio-based chemical feedstock that would significantly decarbonize the chemical industry.
“Meanwhile, when that same chemistry went through the TSCA review process, it received such stringent restrictions that it can no longer be commercialized.
“Unfortunately, this is just one of the many examples of the profound disconnect between this new, hazard-based interpretation of TSCA and the Biden administration’s so-called onshoring efforts.
“It’s the same disconnect that has the EPA mulling proposed rules to destroy domestic semiconductor manufacturing by effectively prohibiting essential chemistries, despite Congress and the Biden administration doling out tens of billions of dollars to stand up capacity here.
“I fear the program is in a worse state now than before the Lautenberg Act was passed.
“We may not agree on everything, but we can at least agree that the status quo needs to change.
“It's not lost on me that you don’t receive all the resources you’d like.
“However, simply throwing more money at the problem while doing nothing to change the underlying structural issues is not a solution.
“And Congress has made more resources available.
“The EPA hired almost 2,000 new employees last year, but somehow the TSCA program struggles to fill vacancies that have been open for years.
“It’s concerning to me to hear that it’s taken almost two years to hire a single person under the Title 42 authority Congress provided you in 2022.
“It’s also troubling that the Office of the Inspector General criticized the OCSPP for its lack of standard operating procedures and outdated guidance to more effectively onboard new staffs.
“If resources are a problem, then why, at a time when 70 percent of guidance documents and standard operating procedures for the new chemical program are out of date, is the EPA announcing that it is expanding resources for elective programs without statutory authorization?
“Examples like this give me the impression the TSCA program’s resource demands and programmatic workload arbitrarily grow every year, no matter what resources Congress makes available or the policies we choose to prioritize.
“During today’s hearing, I expect we will once again hear about the need for more resources, and we will consider that request as the chairman mentioned.
“But more valuable will be learning how you intend to allocate the resources you have and what transparent commitments you are willing to make to improve management of and tangibly accelerate the review process.
“I shared with you in advance some of the ideas that we have to achieve that goal, and I hope we can discuss those this morning.
“Thank you, Chairman Carper.”
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