Threat from Climate-Induced Spills Goes Beyond Superfund and Toxic Release Inventory Sites

by David Flores | March 19, 2018

This post is the first in a forthcoming series about climate change and the increasing risk of floods releasing toxic chemicals from industrial facilities in Virginia.

At the tail end of winter, a succession of "bomb cyclones" and nor'easters has brought fierce winds and surging coastal flooding to the mid-Atlantic and Northeast. These storms remind us of the deepening vulnerability of our coastal and riverfront communities and infrastructure to intensifying extreme weather and flooding. This "freakish" winter weather comes just six months after a previously unimaginable trio of hurricanes laid waste to parts of Texas, Florida, and Puerto Rico. The flooding that followed the hurricanes also unleashed significant amounts of toxic chemicals into the environment, signaling that any state with industrial facilities near coasts and in floodplains – including Virginia and other mid-Atlantic states – could be vulnerable to toxic floodwaters in the aftermath of powerful storms.

While much of the nation's attention has shifted away from the severe weather events of the past six months, many returning residents and local governments are rightly concerned about the potential toxic contamination wrought by destructive floodwaters scouring pollution from industrial sites. And they should be. Most lawmakers in federal and state governments have ignored the deepening need to address the threat posed by the broad gap in protections between our flood control and pollution control regimes.

Fortunately, mainstream media are starting to take notice. A decade ago, we learned about the 8 ...

North Carolina v. Chemours: Early Reflections on an Ongoing State Environmental Enforcement Case

by Joel Mintz | November 27, 2017
The Trump EPA's shrinking commitment to enforcement of the nation's environmental laws has focused new attention on state-level enforcement and the extent to which it does or does not address problems of environmental pollution and threats to public health. One recent – and ongoing – controversy, involving toxic chemical contamination of a river in North Carolina by a large and profitable corporation, provides some insights into both the promise and the shortcomings of state environmental law enforcement. It also sheds ...

Dear Congress: EPA's TSCA Implementation Has Gone Awry

by Katie Tracy | October 19, 2017
Individuals across the United States encounter hundreds of chemical substances every day and often simultaneously – in common household and hygiene products, in our food and drinking water, and in our air. Some of these chemicals present serious risks to our health and the environment and a heightened risk of harm for children, pregnant women, the elderly, and individuals with compromised immune systems. To this day, we are largely unprotected from all manner of chemical exposures, including chemicals widely known ...

A Striking About-Face on EPA's Progress in Protecting Us from Chemical Hazards

by Matt Shudtz | August 01, 2017
August is the time for back-to-school shopping, leading parents everywhere on the search for the best deals to fill our kids' backpacks. When that search ends at bargain outlets and dollar stores, though, there is a hidden cost many may not be aware of: the health burden from toxic chemicals in cheap consumer goods. Our chemical safety laws do not do enough to protect our children and families, so public health advocates like the Campaign for Healthier Solutions are putting ...

Does TSCA Reform Have a Future?

by Katie Tracy | July 17, 2017
June 22 marked the one-year anniversary of the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act, the first major update to the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) since its original enactment in 1976. The measure set a one-year deadline for EPA to complete several actions to implement the law, including finalizing its procedural rules on chemical prioritization and risk evaluation and releasing key documents related to the initial ten chemicals the agency has chosen to evaluate. (See all ...

LA Times Op-Ed: EPA Scientists Said Ban the Pesticide Chlorpyrifos. Scott Pruitt Said No

by Carl Cranor | June 08, 2017
This op-ed originally ran in the Los Angeles Times. Miners carried canaries into coal mines; if the canary died, it was an early warning of the presence of toxic gases that could also asphyxiate humans or explode. The Trump administration has decided to use children and farmworkers as 21st century canaries, continuing their exposure to a pesticide named chlorpyrifos that has been linked to serious health concerns. The toxicity of this commonly used pesticide was demonstrated in early May when ...

'Super Polluters' Under the Microscope

by Matthew Freeman | September 30, 2016
In a story published yesterday, the Center for Public Integrity takes a deep dive into the public health impact of the nation’s “super polluters,” a collection of industrial polluters that account for an outsized share of toxic air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. Produced in collaboration with USA Today and The Weather Channel, the story focuses in on Evansville, Indiana, a city of 120,000 nestled in the southwest corner of the state and ringed by no ...

CPR's Tracy Delivers Comments at EPA Meetings on Risk Evaluation, Prioritization, and the Toxic Substances Control Act

by Katie Tracy | August 10, 2016
UPDATED (8/10/2016): On August 9 and 10, Center for Progressive Reform Policy Analyst Katie Tracy delivered remarks at two Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) stakeholder meetings on risk evaluation, prioritization, and the revised Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). August 9 – Risk Evaluation Rule Thank you for the opportunity to present today. My name is Katie Tracy. I am a policy analyst with the Center for Progressive Reform. I would just like to share a few brief comments with you today, which will be ...

Cleaner Waters for Washington at Long Last?

by Catherine O'Neill | August 08, 2016
The Clean Water Act instructs states and tribes to revisit their water quality standards every three years, updating them as necessary to reflect newer science and to ensure progress in cleaning up the nation's waters – to the point where people can safely catch and eat fish. Last Monday, Washington State's Department of Ecology unveiled its long-awaited update, revising standards that had been developed back in 1992. The state's rulemaking process has been marked by controversy and delay, which I ...

Do Revisions to Nation's Toxic Chemical Law Represent Reform?

by Mollie Rosenzweig | June 20, 2016
Earlier this month, revisions to the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) cleared the Senate and now await President Obama's signature. TSCA's failure to provide EPA with meaningful authority to protect Americans from toxic chemicals was widely recognized, yet the path to revising the law was fraught with controversy. The chemical industry and public health and environmental advocates, as well as Democrats and Republicans in Congress, wrangled over a number of bills for years. The resulting legislation represents a compromise, and ...

Legal Experts: Supreme Court Decision on Mercury Pollution Could Undercut Chemical Reform

by Thomas Cluderay | March 31, 2016
Originally published on EnviroBlog by Thomas Cluderay, general counsel, and Melanie Benesh, legislative attorney, for the Environmental Working Group. You might think you can’t put a price on protecting public health and the environment. But you’d be wrong – especially if we’re talking about the nation's broken and outdated chemicals law, the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act, or TSCA. We’ve written a lot about how the House and Senate are working to amend this defective law (here, here and here) through negotiations ...

More Delay for OSHA's New Silica Rule

by Katie Tracy | February 24, 2016
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has informally announced that it is unlikely to finalize its long-awaited rule to limit workers' exposure to respirable crystalline silica by the month's end, as the agency had expected. OSHA's deputy assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health, Jordan Barab, told Politico on Friday, Feb. 18, that he "can pretty much guarantee" the rule will be delayed, but he expects "it will be out soon." The silica rule, which OSHA proposed ...

CPR's Sachs and Shudtz in The Hill: Toxic Ignorance and the Challenge for Congress

by Erin Kesler | June 26, 2015
Earlier this week, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 2576, an update to the long-outdated Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), which governs regulation of toxic chemicals. CPR Member Scholar and University of Richmond Law School professor Noah Sachs and CPR Executive Director Matthew Shudtz wrote a piece for The Hill, highlighting some crucial problems with the bill the House passed.  They note: Both bills, for example, require EPA to move through the backlog of untested chemicals and make safety determinations.  A safety determination is ...

House Bipartisanship Throws Up Pitifully Weak Toxic Chemicals Control Act Bill

by Rena Steinzor | June 25, 2015
Anyone who cares about the development of sound public policy has grown distraught over congressional gridlock.  The House and Senate are dysfunctional to an extent not seen in modern times.  Neither is able to develop bipartisan legislation to deal with a slew of urgent social problems, from immigration and the minimum wage to the strengthening of outdated health and safety laws.  But the kneejerk glee that accompanies any bipartisan action regardless of content is just as dangerous.  Take, for example, ...

CPR Scholars Call on Senators to Enact Meaningful Reform of the Toxic Substances Control Act

by Matt Shudtz | March 16, 2015
What’s old is new again. This week, competing bills to reform the 40-year old Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) hit the Senate—one from Senators Vitter and Udall, the other from Senators Boxer and Markey. Both the environmental community and the chemical industry agree that TSCA is broken and must be fixed. This is a law that’s so poorly designed; EPA has been stymied in its efforts to ban asbestos. Yes, that asbestos. But where environmentalists and the chemical industry diverge is on the ...

Statement of CPR Executive Director Matt Shudtz on OSHA's Call for Dialogue on Chemical Exposure

by Erin Kesler | October 09, 2014
Today, OSHA announced that it is seeking new ideas from stakeholders about preventing workplace injuries caused by exposure to harmful chemicals. The agency wants to identify new ways to develop Permissible Exposure Limits (PELs), the basic standards for reducing air contaminants.   CPR's Executive Director Matthew Shudtz responded to the development: It’s great that Dr. Michaels is continuing to seek new ways to eliminate or manage chemical hazards in the workplace.  OSHA has been relying on outdated standards for too long. But rulemaking is not ...

Remedying Toxic Exposures: Will CERCLA Continue to Help?

by Robin Kundis Craig | June 11, 2014
On Monday, June 9, 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court decided CTS Corp. v. Waldburger, --- U.S. ---, --- S. Ct. ---, 2014 WL 2560466 (June 9, 2014), a case that posed the seemingly simple legal question of whether the federal Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (“CERCLA,” also known as Superfund), 42 U.S.C. §§ 9601-9675, preempts state statues of repose. Behind that legal question, however, lies the issue of whether the plaintiffs landowners do or should have a state-law ...

New NAS report breathes life into EPA’s IRIS program

by Matt Shudtz | May 08, 2014
The National Academies’ National Research Council released its long-awaited report on IRIS this week, and the results are good for EPA.  The report praises the IRIS program and its leadership, including Drs. Olden and Cogliano, for making great strides to improve how IRIS assessments are developed. To get a real appreciation for how positive this report is, it’s important to put it in context.  In 2011, a different NAS/NRC committee led by the same chairperson went out of its way ...


Recognizing the often hidden hazards posed by toxic chemicals that pervade our lives, Congress has enacted a variety of laws designed to protect people and the environment from both short- and long-term health problems. Despite these efforts, corporatoins that profit from introducing hazardous pollutants into the environment lobby hard to prevent stiff regulatory enforcement and distort scientific evidence of harm.

The Center for Progressive Reform

455 Massachusetts Ave., NW, #150-513
Washington, DC 20001

© Center for Progressive Reform, 2015