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EPA’s Dunn talks TSCA progress, backlog at Global Chem 2019

Newly minted EPA assistant administrator, Alexandra Dunn, delivered the keynote speech at Global Chem 2019 in Washington, D.C.

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Alexandra Dunn, the freshly appointed assistant administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, said at the 2019 Global Chemical Regulations Conference in Washington, D.C., that she is prepared for a full regulatory lineup in the year ahead. Dunn, who was confirmed amid the recent partial government shutdown, has made up for lost time and explained the road ahead. 

PBT Rules

The OCSPP assistant administrator says the agency is  “already well underway in the drafting phase” of proposing an expedited set of risk management-related rules on persistent bioaccumulative toxic chemicals (PBTs), as is required by the Toxic Substances Control Act. That rule should be expected to be proposed, she said, in June 2019.

Dunn added that the agency does not plan to take advantage of an available six-month extension of the completion of the initial 10 peer reviewed risk evaluation panels. Choosing not to pursue the extension should allow the agency to complete the rules by December 2019, as long as the office completes the peer review processes on the first ten by July or August of this year. This time frame will allow the Office of Management and Budget sufficient time for review prior to finalization.

Pigment Violet 29

A peer review meeting to assess the risk of pigment violet 29 was indefinitely postponed due to the record-breaking government closure, but Dunn found a silver lining in the delay, saying that it gave the agency more time to focus on procedural complaints, including the urging by two Democratic legislators to release health and safety studies that were classified as confidential business information related to the agency’s risk evaluation of PV29.

“It gave us more time to look at the comments that we received and to think about this peer review on PV29, and how we can address the perception [of a lack of transparency], real or perceived … how we can be more transparent in the work we are doing, because we want to be,” said Dunn.

Submissions Yet to be Evaluated

Reducing the backlog of new chemical submissions from the approximately 500 not-yet-evaluated submissions within the next six months is another of Dunn’s goals. About 1,000 new chemicals are submitted each year, she said, and only about 300-350 cases can be assessed at a time.

“We are not moving as quickly as you all would like us to, is that an accurate statement?” Dunn joked, adding that companies and stakeholders submitting new chemicals for review could help reduce “rework” by ensuring that all of the necessary information is presented at the time of submission and by scheduling a pre-manufacturing notice consultation.

“We will try to do better,” she added. “And we will.”

Making Way for A Better Culture

Although several recent reports have a painted a picture of a beleaguered agency suffering from a nose dive in morale under President Donald Trump’s administration, Dunn explained how she hopes her open door doctrine will continue to motivate what she called both a “well-intentioned” and “opinionated” staff.