THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION has quietly delayed action on dangerous solvents that the Environmental Protection Agency had previously planned to ban. Under former President Barack Obama, the agency had been in the process of restricting the use of the three commonly available chemicals, but the Trump administration’s latest update on its effort to roll back regulation puts the proposed Obama rules on the back burner.
The three chemicals — TCE, NMP, and methylene chloride — are used to strip furniture, remove grease, and dry clean clothes. All three are clearly dangerous: The EPA has deemed TCE a carcinogen “by all routes of exposure,” NMP is a developmental toxin, and methylene chloride has killed at least 56 people since 1980, many of whom were stripping bathtubs.
But the Trump administration has dimmed the possibility of quick action on these — and perhaps all — dangerous chemicals. The new regulatory plan, which the White House released last week, showed that the chemicals were moved from the proposed rule category to “long term action.” In all, 469 Obama-era regulations were withdrawn and 860 put on hold.
Although there was no mandatory date for finalizing the Obama rules, the bans were widely expected to take effect in 2018. An official move to “long-term” action means the process will be slowed, perhaps indefinitely.
The EPA did not respond to specific questions for this article but provided a link to information on the regulatory plan, which included this quote from EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt: “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and its commitment to providing regulatory certainty through improvements to existing regulations that were flawed, outdated, ineffective, or unnecessarily burdensome.”
The EPA had proposed a ban on certain uses of the three chemicals on January 19, one day before Donald Trump’s inauguration. In response, the Halogenated Solvents Industry Alliance launched a campaign to delay the impending regulation on TCE. HSIA also asked for an extension of the comment period on methylene chloride and argued that the chemical doesn’t cause cancer. In December, HSIA’s attorney met with the EPA and the White House’s Office of Management and Budget and the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs to discuss NMP and methylene chloride. At the meeting, attorney W. Caffey Norman of Squire Patton Boggs contested the EPA’s science on the chemical and argued that the proposed rule should not go forward.
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