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Trump administration delays bans of toxic solvents

Regulation of high-risk uses of trichloroethylene, methylene chloride, NMP on hold

by Cheryl Hogue
December 20, 2017

The Trump administration is delaying the Environmental Protection Agency’s plans to ban high-risk uses of three hazardous solvents.

Those plans took shape in the waning days of the Obama administration. That’s when EPA proposed the ban on methylene chloride and N-methylpyrrolidine (NMP) in paint strippers and trichloroethylene (TCE) in aerosol spray degreasers, spot-cleaning agents in dry cleaning, and vapor degreasing. These uses put people at risk for cancer and neurodevelopmental effects, the agency determined.

If finalized, the restrictions would mark the first time EPA has prohibited uses of a commercial chemical in more than a quarter-century. In addition, they would be the first such regulations since Congress amended the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) in 2016 to boost EPA’s authority to control high-risk uses of chemicals.

However, the Trump administration on Dec. 14 quietly said it will indefinitely postpone finalizing the planned ban of TCE uses and, at some unspecified time in the future, recast the proposed regulations for methylene chloride and NMP. Such changes could include withdrawing the proposals on methylene chloride and NMP, leaving the two chemicals unregulated.

“EPA is once again kowtowing to the chemical industry,” which has pushed back against the agency’s health conclusions for the three solvents and wants EPA to reassess the compounds, says Richard Denison, lead senior scientist at Environmental Defense Fund, an activist group. He calls the Trump administration’s move an attempt to undermine Congress’s bipartisan reforms to TSCA, which authorize the agency to regulate high-risk uses of chemicals.

Postponement of EPA’s plans for the three solvents is part of a document issued semiannually by the White House that lays out an administration’s agenda for creating or withdrawing regulations.

“EPA’s plan balances its statutory requirements to issue regulations and its commitment to providing regulatory certainty through improvements to existing regulations that were flawed, outdated, ineffective, or unnecessarily burdensome,” EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt says in a statement about the agenda.



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