US House leaders move to block EPA inventory update rule

05 April 2011 22:38  [Source: ICIS news]

WASHINGTON (ICIS)--Two US House leaders on Tuesday called on the White House to kill the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) new inventory update reporting (IUR) rule, charging that it is unwarranted, unjustified and burdensome to chemical makers and others.

Representative Fred Upton (Republican-Michigan) and Representative John Shimkus (Republican-Illinois) said in a letter to the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) that the agency’s broad expansion of the inventory update rule violated rulemaking procedures and was in conflict with President Barack Obama’s stated policy of reducing regulatory burdens.

The OMB must approve final regulations before they can be put in force.

Proposed in August last year and scheduled to take effect on 1 June this year, the EPA’s expanded IUR rule substantially reduces or eliminates threshold reporting criteria for manufacturers, importers, processors and users of chemical substances regulated under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).

The pending rule also would impose more strict capture and control standards and sharply reduce the amount of product data that chemical manufacturers may withhold from disclosure as critical business information (CBI).

The US chemicals sector has been harshly critical of the new IUR requirements, warning that the reduced protection for proprietary information would undermine US manufacturing competitiveness and chill future investment and innovation.

Upton, who is chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, said that the EPA action was in direct violation of Obama’s executive order of January this year, which required regulatory agencies to issue new rules only if their benefits justify their cost.

The Obama order also required that agencies tailor their rulemaking to impose the least burden on society and business.

“The rule proposed by EPA ... would impose new and needless cost burdens on the US economy with no apparent purpose or benefit,” Upton said. “It is, therefore, contrary to the requirements of the Paperwork Reduction Act and the president’s own regulatory standards.”

Upton noted that in its August 2010 proposal, “EPA outlined a complex enlargement of the IUR reporting programme through several modifications to the existing rule, including increased frequency of reporting and breadth of information required”.

“However, the proposal fails to detail how the additional data will be used to improve chemical management programmes at EPA or further the agency’s mission,” he said, adding: “Because EPA has not estimated benefits, it does not justify the costs to the regulated community.”

Shimkus, who is chairman of the Environment and Economy Subcommittee under Upton's panel, detailed various modifications to the IUR that EPA would put in place on 1 June, calling them “unwarranted and burdensome”.

The two congressmen asked the White House to respond to their concerns within 10 days, on 14 April.

Asked if Upton might introduce legislation to block EPA’s new IUR rule, his spokeswoman declined to say.

However, the spokeswoman indicated that Upton would not accept a non-responsive reaction.

“We don’t want to prejudge the administration’s reaction” to the Upton-Shimkus demand for withdrawal of the new rule, she said.

However, she added, “We made our concerns known and we expect OMB to weigh our points carefully.”

Paul Hodges studies key influencers shaping the chemical industry in Chemicals and the Economy

By: Joe Kamalick
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