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January 28, 2019

Richard E. Engler, Ph.D., Quoted By Bloomberg Environment in “EPA’s Chemicals Office May Begin Normal Work By Week’s End”

The ACTA Group

On January 28, 2019, Bloomberg Environment quoted Richard E. Engler, Ph.D., Director of Chemistry, Bergeson & Campbell, P.C. (B&C®), regarding the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) resuming work after the government shutdown.

Employees in the Environmental Protection Agency’s chemicals office may be able to begin their normal tasks reviewing new and evaluating the risks of existing ones by the end of this week, said Richard Engler, director of chemistry at Bergeson & Campbell PC. Engler worked for 17 years in the EPA’s chemicals office prior to joining Bergeson & Campbell’s Washington office.


Reviewing emails, updating passwords, figuring out how to pay staff, and identifying which contracts—and work assignments within those contracts—may have lapsed during the shutdown will be among the first tasks for agency staff and managers, Engler said.

The first few days also will be full of meetings as workers reestablish priorities for both new and existing chemicals, he said. But it will take the agency months to fully recover—and it will be even longer if another shutdown happens, Engler said. 

The number one question chemical manufacturers want answered involves the status of new chemicals that, prior to the shutdown, they had asked the EPA to allow them to make, said Engler and attorneys from two other law firms.

The EPA was reviewing more than 500 new chemicals as of Dec. 20, the most recent date for which the agency provided statistics. That means the agency already had a backlog of at least 200 more new chemicals than it typically reviews at any given time.

It’s not yet known whether some companies submitted additional requests to make new chemicals during the shutdown, Engler said. But if they did, the backlog would be greater.


The EPA had been expected in January to release more of the 10 draft chemical evaluations it is supposed to have finished by the end of this year. The agency is evaluating asbestos, Pigment Violet 29—used to tint plastics, paints, and other products—as well as a group of three flame retardants and seven solvents.

Spacing out the release data of the 10 draft risk evaluations would give interested parties more time to finish comments on one assessment before preparing them for the next. It also gives the agency time to consider all comments, Engler said.

It’s hard to see how the agency will make up the days it lost due to the shutdown, he said. The office “was already running at 105 percent with all hands on deck trying to meet statutory deadlines,” Engler said. “There aren’t more hands to bring to bear.”

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