EPA today announced (pdf) that it will begin a general practice of reviewing – and likely rejecting – confidentiality claims regarding chemical identities and supporting data in health and safety studies submitted to the agency under TSCA. The news is long overdue, but very welcome.
One of Congress’s primary goals in drafting TSCA was to create regulatory mechanisms through which EPA would gather information about the human health and environmental effects of toxic chemicals. Recognizing the societal benefits of broad disclosure of that information, Congress created an exemption for “health and safety studies” from TSCA § 14’s general prohibition on EPA’s disclosure of information submitted to the agency and claimed to be trade secrets or confidential business information (CBI). Health and safety information, in other words, was too important to be hidden from the public.
But despite the plain language of the statute, EPA for years simply turned a blind eye when health and safety studies were submitted under the Act’s information disclosure requirements and stamped as CBI. In fact, EPA even developed a process through which companies could claim that elements of a health and safety study – including chemical identities and supporting data – pass as CBI.
When companies submit certain information to EPA and claim it deserves confidential or trade secret protections, they have to substantiate their request with an explanation of the harms that would result from disclosure and the efforts they’ve taken to keep the information ...