House Subcommittee Holds Hearing on FY 2023 Budget Request for EPA
On April 29, 2022, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies held a hearing on President Biden’s fiscal year (FY) 2023 budget request for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In his written testimony, EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan notes that “[c]hemicals and toxic substances are ubiquitous in our everyday lives and are often released into the environment from their manufacture, processing use, or disposal.” Regan acknowledges that EPA has “significant responsibilities” under the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act (Lautenberg Act) amendments to the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) to ensure the safety of chemicals in or entering commerce and to address unreasonable risks to human health or the environment. The budget would provide $124 million and 449 full-time equivalents (FTE) to implement TSCA, an increase of more than $60 million. According to Regan, “[t]hese resources will support EPA-initiated chemical risk evaluations, issue protective regulations in accordance with statutory timelines, and establish a pipeline of priority chemicals for risk evaluation.” Regan states that EPA also has “significant responsibility under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) to screen new pesticides before they reach the market and ensure pesticides already in commerce are safe.” He notes that in addition, EPA is responsible for complying with the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and ensuring that federally endangered and threatened species are not harmed when EPA registers pesticides. The proposed FY 2023 budget includes an additional $4.9 million to enable the pesticide program to integrate ESA requirements in conducting risk assessments and making risk management decisions that protect federally threatened and endangered species from exposure to new active ingredients.
After Regan gave his opening statement, the Subcommittee asked questions. Representative Chellie Pingree (D-ME), Chair of the Subcommittee, asked Regan to discuss EPA’s current and future work on per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). Regan stated that since releasing the PFAS Strategic Roadmap in October 2021, EPA has started a rulemaking that would designate perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) as hazardous substances under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA). EPA developed the National PFAS Testing Strategy under TSCA to increase its understanding of the impacts of the different categories of PFAS, including potential hazards to human health and the environment. EPA has also begun a rulemaking to establish National Primary Drinking Water Regulation (NPDWR) for PFOA and PFOS that would set enforceable limits.
Representative Betty McCollum (D-MN) asked about the delays in getting TSCA back on track from under the previous Administration, what EPA is doing to address them, and what Congress can do to help EPA address them. Regan described the Lautenberg Act as a great example of bipartisan work to address some of the most dangerous chemicals in the United States. Once TSCA reform was put into place, the previous Administration did not ask for any additional resources and did not put a plan into place to implement the Lautenberg Act as directed by Congress. According to Regan, this is why EPA missed nine of the first ten chemical risk evaluation deadlines. The Biden Administration walked into a situation where EPA had not been funded to do the work that Congress asked. This is why EPA has only about 50 percent of the resources that it thinks it needs to review the safety of new chemicals as quickly as possible, not only to follow the law as Congress asked but as the private sector wants to see so that the right replacement chemicals make it to market. Regan stated that the FY 2023 proposed budget is a very genuine request for TSCA support and implementation.
Regan described EPA’s ambitious agenda in addressing PFAS, as outlined in its PFAS Strategic Roadmap, including steps that EPA is taking under CERCLA, TSCA, and the Safe Drinking Water Act. As has been reported in the trade press and acknowledged by EPA in Congressional hearings and its webinars, EPA has struggled to meet the statutory deadlines under the Lautenberg Act to complete its risk evaluations and reviews of new chemicals. The Biden Administration recognizes the increased workload placed on EPA by the Lautenberg Act, seeking $124 million and 449 FTEs to implement the Lautenberg Act, an increase of more than $60 million.