In one of several last-minute moves before the Trump administration ends, the US Environmental Protection Agency released a final rule Jan. 5 that gives chemical companies a second chance to justify why the identities of certain chemicals should be shielded from the public and competitors.
Environmental groups were taken aback by the rule, which the EPA did not propose in draft form or open for public comments. The Environmental Defense Fund, in particular, has long advocated for people’s right to know what chemicals they are being exposed to.
The EPA’s initial rule gave manufacturers until October 2018 to report chemicals that they made or imported into the US during a 10-year period ending June 21, 2016. Under 2016 revisions to the Toxic Substances Control Act, companies have to substantiate why the identities of those chemicals should remain confidential business information (CBI) and provide structurally descriptive generic names for each. In May 2020, the EPA posted a list of 2,812 chemicals that would lose their CBI status.
In response to that list, the American Chemistry Council, which represents chemical manufacturers in the US, argued that making such information public would financially harm many companies. The group claimed that companies mistakenly invalidated legitimate CBI claims because of confusion over who has authority to substantiate claims.
The new rule is intended to clear up that confusion, the EPA says. The agency will reopen the reporting period 30 days after publishing the rule in the Federal Register. Manufacturers will then have 60 days to resubmit their responses.