American Chemistry Council Doesn't Get What it Wants in Omnibus; Pretends to EPA That it Does

by Ben Somberg

On Tuesday, the American Chemistry Council sent EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson a letter about the provisions regarding IRIS toxic chemical assessments in the omnibus spending bill. The ACC said:

H.R. 2055 also directs EPA to include documentation describing how the NAS Chapter 7 recommendations have been implemented or addressed in all IRIS assessments released in Fiscal Year 2012. The documentation is to include an explanation for why certain recommendations were not incorporated. Thus, it is incumbent on EPA to fully explain how the IRIS assessment of dioxin comports with the NAS recommendations. To comply with Congress's direction, EPA should withdraw the dioxin assessment from interagency review and take the necessary steps to implement the NAS recommendations.

Withdrawing the dioxin assessment would be a huge deal, setting back progress on protecting the public from the chemical. But is this what Congress directed in the omnibus? Luckily, no.

CPR President Rena Steinzor and Senior Policy Analyst Matthew Shudtz wrote to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson today to correct the record on the ACC’s false claim. Their letter explains how the House had earlier considered a version of the bill that required EPA to rework all draft and final IRIS assessment due out in FY 2012, but ultimately went with a bill that requires revision of only the draft assessments and not the final assessments.

The non-cancer portion of the dioxin assessment is in final form and EPA has indicated it will publish the final document in January.  ACC is falsely claiming that the omnibus spending bill would require EPA to stop publication of that document and rewrite it.  This assessment has been through the wringer several times already, with reviews by both NAS (in 2006) and EPA’s on Science Advisory Board (earlier this year).  The non-cancer portion of the assessment has received good marks and is ready for final publication so that EPA can start setting vital public health protections.

For ACC’s members, delaying the dioxin assessment means fewer pollution control obligations.  But as the Center for Public Integrity explained today, for people in communities like Mossville, LA, the delay means more cancer, more reproductive health problems, and more harm to fetuses and children.

It’s worth noting that the National Academy of Sciences, which had recommended significant changes in the IRIS process in a report earlier this year on the formaldehyde assessment, has explicitly stated that EPA should not delay even the formaldehyde assessment as the agency works toward implementing the recommendations for improving the IRIS process. But ACC wishes to gum up the process regardless, and is apparently trying to do so even though it only got a part of what it wanted in the final omnibus.

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