EPN Year in Review: 2019
In 2019, EPN grew its volunteer network to almost 500 EPA alumni across the country. This year alone our volunteers produced 27 analytical documents, submitted 26 formal comments and letters, and testified at 14 agency hearings and advisory board meetings. We also facilitated over 400 interviews between reporters and our experts, resulting in our members being quoted over 325 times. In addition, EPN helped our volunteers publish over a dozen op-eds and continued to be a trusted resource to reporters, NGOs and Congress. All in all, EPN continues to help to answer the call for objective analysis and scientific rigor about public health and EPA when all of these are under siege. Below is a compilation of all of our formal work products from 2019.
EPN Work on Budget & Appropriations
FY2019 Shutdown & Appropriations Analyses
EPN shared information about the effects of a government shutdown on EPA’s ability to do its work before and during the shutdown. Shutdowns are disruptive, bad for morale, hurt productivity, and are a tremendous waste of taxpayer dollars. On January 25, 2019, a short-term spending bill was signed, and the 34-day shutdown over the FY2019 budget ended.
On February 15, 2019, the president signed the FY2019 Appropriations Act, which saved EPA from the proposed 33.7% cuts originally proposed by the administration, allocating an $8.06 billion budget, similar to its FY2018 budget. Unfortunately, a flatlined budget for EPA continues a longer-term trend of inadequate funding for EPA.
FY2020 Budget Analyses
EPN produced analysis of the Trump Administration's proposed FY2020 budget, which slashed EPA's budget by 31% and continued the evisceration of the agency.
In light of the Trump Administration's FY2020 budget proposal that included a 31% cut to EPA, EPN produced an overarching fact sheet on EPA's core work and why it matters, as well as fact sheets on air, water, science, Superfund, hazardous waste, chemicals and pesticides, and enforcement.
EPN produced fact sheets on a number of EPA programs that were proposed to be eliminated or significantly threatened under the Administration's proposed FY2020 budget, which included virtually all voluntary climate programs, geographic and water programs, and special initiatives and grants.
Fact Sheets on Programs Proposed for Cuts/Elimination in FY2020 Budget
The proposed FY2020 EPA budget calls for massive cuts to state environmental programs, putting the first line of defense for the environment and public health at risk.
Proposed budgets under this administration have eliminated funding for the Endocrine Disruptor Screening Program, which is the only regulatory program designed to identify and characterize endocrine-disrupting chemicals.
EPN created a fact sheet on EPA's Indoor Air Radon Program to provide awareness of how important this program is to providing healthy indoor environments. This fact sheet is one of many fact sheets that EPN has created to educate the public about programs that have been and may again be cut in proposed budgets.
EPN Work on Particulate Matter and Ozone Pollution
EPN participated in a CASAC teleconference on the draft review of EPA's Integrated Science Assessment for Particulate Matter. Due to the release of an auxiliary scientific advisory panel that was supposed to assist the CASAC in its review by providing added expertise, the integrity of the assessment has been called into question.
On October 22, 2019, EPA held a public teleconference of the Chartered Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee to receive public comments prior to its peer review of EPA's Policy Assessment for Particulate Matter. EPN presented oral testimony raising concerns about the review process, its outcome, and potential threats to public health and the environment.
EPN submitted comments on the draft Policy Assessment for Particulate Matter (PM), which is part of the current review of the National Ambient Air Quality Standards for PM. EPN found inadequacies in both the independent peer review process and the studies considered in the assessment.
On December 3, 2019, EPN presented testimony at a public meeting of the Chartered Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASAC) about EPA's draft Policy Assessment for Particulate Matter. The CASAC does not have the breadth or depth of expertise needed for this review.
EPN sent a letter to EPA Administrator Wheeler requesting an extension of the comment period for EPA's Ozone National Ambient Air Quality Standards Policy Assessment (PA). EPN found that the collapsed process of review impermissibly mixes policy and scientific consideration and the 45 days to comment on the PA is insufficient.
EPN submitted comments on the draft Policy Assessment (PA) for ozone, which is part of the current review of the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS). EPN found that EPA should prepare a draft PA that accounts for findings in Murray Energy v. EPA in regards to the secondary NAAQS ozone standard and resubmit it to the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee for review.
EPN Work on Drinking Water
In response to EPA's proposed drinking water regulation for perchlorate, EPN produced comments highlighting the shortcomings of the proposal and strongly recommended submitting a new proposal that addresses these issues and excludes the option to withdraw from the 2011 determination to regulate perchlorate.
EPN sent a statement to the National Drinking Water Advisory Council about its comments on the proposed drinking water standard for perchlorate and initial thoughts on the proposed revisions to the lead and copper rule.
EPN sent a letter to the EPA Office of Water requesting an extension of the comment period for the proposed Lead and Copper Rule (LCR) revisions. Due to the magnitude and complexity of the revisions, a 90-day comment period is recommended to produce the most comprehensive comments.
EPN Work on Mercury and Air Toxics Standards
EPN provided testimony on EPA's new assessment of MATS benefits, which ignores both non-monetized and many significant monetized benefits, and seems to conclude that the residual risk to the public from mercury and other hazardous air pollutant emissions is acceptable.
EPN produced comments explaining where EPA went wrong in its proposal to revoke the "appropriate and necessary" finding for MATS. The agency’s own analysis determined MATS would save taxpayers billions of dollars in healthcare costs annually through reduced premature deaths, sick days, and hospital visits.
EPN Work on Science
In June, EPA held a two-day public meeting of the Science Advisory Board. EPN members presented testimony critiquing EPA’s plan to revise its guidelines for carcinogen and non-cancer risk assessment, the "Censored Science" rule, and co-benefits.
At the August 2019 SAB teleconference on personally identifying information and confidential business information under the Censored Science rule, EPN testified that the SAB should have been asked to review the entire rule and that none of the proposed approaches can guarantee personal information won’t be released.
EPN Work on Alternative Interpretations of State Implementation Plans
In response to EPA Region 4’s proposal for an alternative interpretation of the North Carolina SIP, EPN concluded that the proposal failed to justify why it is warranted, lacks a legal or technical justification that the revision would protect public health, and fails to show that it is consistent with the Clean Air Act.
Due to the lack of an adequate, legally justified explanation for why Texas should be treated differently than other states, EPN urged EPA not to give final approval to the proposed alternative interpretation of the Region 6 Texas SIP.
EPN Work on TSCA
EPN found EPA's draft risk assessment of Pigment Violet 29 (PV29) under the reformed Toxic Substances Control Act to be undermined due to the need for further public information, failure to protect vulnerable subpopulations, and the use of a seriously flawed systematic review process.
After EPN and other commenters urged EPA to release studies withheld by the agency on the basis of confidential business information, EPA released 24 studies and reopened the comment period. EPN reviewed them and submitted comments urging the agency not to use proprietary information to make a determination of "no unreasonable risk" for PV29 or any chemical.
EPN submitted its third set of comments in response to EPA’s draft risk evaluation of PV29. EPN objected to the process followed and the basis on which EPA conducted the risk evaluation of PV29.
EPN provided oral and written testimony critiquing the draft risk evaluation of PV29 at the June 2019 public meeting of the SACC. EPN asserted that EPA failed to exercise the authority provided by Congress under the reformed Toxic Substances Control Act to require robust data to inform its risk evaluations of existing chemicals.
EPN produced comments and presented testimony on the draft risk evaluations of HBCD and 1,4-Dioxane to assist the Science Advisory Committee on Chemicals as it reviews the evaluations during its 5-day meeting. EPN also submitted more detailed comments.
EPN produced a second set of comments on the draft risk evaluations of HBCD and 1,4-Dioxane, noting that EPA needs to base its decisions on adequate data and expand its considerations of the populations at risk. EPN urged EPA to discontinue the use of the flawed TSCA systematic review to prevent endangering public health and the environment.
EPA's draft risk evaluation for the chemical 1-BP demonstrated serious health risks for workers and consumers. EPN urged EPA to first focus on acute reproductive and developmental hazards of the chemical and then on the effects of chronic exposure.
EPN commented on the draft risk evaluation of 1-BP to assist the Science Advisory Committee on Chemicals as it reviews the evaluations during its September meeting. EPN objected to the process followed and basis on which EPA conducted the risk evaluations for 1-BP and urged EPA to discontinue use of the flawed TSCA systematic review process.
EPN commented on the draft risk evaluation of MC to assist the Science Advisory Committee on Chemicals as it reviews the evaluations during its December meeting. EPN objected to the process followed and basis on which EPA conducted the risk evaluations for MC and urged EPA to discontinue use of the flawed TSCA systematic review process.
EPN sent letters to EPA and the House and Senate about the unreasonable health risks of the chemical MC. EPN urged Congress to support the request for EPA to regulate the hazards of MC in two separate stages: first focused on the risks posed by acute neurotoxicity, and then focused on chronic exposure, cancer endpoints, and any remaining uses that present unreasonable risk that were not restricted in the first stage.
EPN testified on the draft risk evaluation of MC to assist the Science Advisory Committee on Chemicals as it reviews the evaluation during its December meeting. EPN urged EPA to base its decisions on adequate data and expand its considerations of the populations at risk.
EPN sent a letter to the Chairs and Ranking Members of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce and the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works expressing strong support for the Alan Reinstein Ban Asbestos Now Act of 2019 due to the grave threat it poses to human health and its extreme pervasiveness in our environment.
EPN submitted comments on the draft toxicity assessment of the chemicals GenX and PFBS, finding that EPA will not address exposure assessments or additional aspects involved in risk management of these two chemicals.
EPN submitted comments in response to EPA’s proposal to designate the next 20 chemical substances as "High-Priority Substances" for risk evaluation under the reformed Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). EPN urges EPA to take quick action to evaluate risks of chemicals currently on the market with documented risks to vulnerable and highly exposed populations; however, as in past comments, EPN urges EPA to discontinue the use of a flawed TSCA systematic review process to prevent endangering public health and the environment.
EPN Work on Water and WOTUS
EPN presented testimony on the proposed new definition of WOTUS. The new definition would replace EPA’s 2015 definition and would halt decades-long progress toward understanding how rivers, streams, wetlands, and other water bodies interconnect to provide clean drinking water and clean water for industrial needs.
EPN responded to the proposed WOTUS definition that puts the decades of research and billions of dollars spent maintaining and protecting water quality in jeopardy.
EPN submitted comments on EPA’s proposal to update regulations on water quality certification under Section 401 of the Clean Water Act (CWA). EPN raised concerns about the inappropriate narrowing of the scope of state water quality requirements, as well as the fact that the proposed limitations are inconsistent with the CWA.
EPN Work on Sulfur Dioxide, Ethylene Oxide and Clean Car Standards
EPN submitted comments on EPA's proposed error correction for a number of Texas counties found to be out of compliance with the 1-Hour Primary NAAQS for sulfur dioxide. EPN cautioned EPA that if finalized, this rule would set a dangerous precedent for the use of error correction, would be contrary to clear direction in the Clean Air Act, and would put Texas residents near an operational power plant at risk.
EPN commented on the proposed amendments to the NESHAP for HCI Production and the health risk factor for Ethylene Oxide (EtO). EtO is a compound used for industrial purposes and has been covered widely in the news, particularly in Chicago, due to heightened concern over its cancer-causing impacts.
EPN provided supplemental technical comments on important developments in greenhouse gas emission-reduction technology relevant to the proposed rollback of clean car standards.
EPN Work on Environmental Appeals and NEPA
In response to EPA's proposal to revise the Environmental Appeals Board (EAB), EPN submitted a letter finding that the EAB process is not broken and should not be changed. The proposal would allow political leadership to interfere with what has traditionally been an impartial and reliable agency activity.
EPN submitted comments on CEQ's draft guidance on how NEPA analysis and documentation should address greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. EPN noted that the guidance fails to address the underlying concern with GHG emissions, which is their contribution to climate change, and urged CEQ to reinstate the previous guidelines until a substitute could be developed that allows federal agencies to meet their NEPA responsibilities.
Letter From Former Administrators
EPN Op-ed Contributions
William Ruckelshaus is an icon in the history of EPA, and we will remember his integrity and deep commitment to the mission of the agency.
We honor and remember John Kennedy for his 30 years at EPA developing systems to protect clean air and mitigate toxic contamination and for his bravery while battling advanced lung disease.
On October 21, EPN hosted a happy hour and fundraiser at the home of Diana Aviv and Sterling Speirn. EPN member Betsy Southerland spoke to the large gathering of guests, including volunteers, supporters, and potential supporters, about EPN and its work to protect public health and the environment.
EPN, along with Bay Area Air Quality Management District and Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), hosted a well-attended happy hour event in San Francisco on October 2nd. Guest speakers included Bay Area Air Quality Management District CEO Jack Broadbent, EPN Board Chair Rob Wolcott, and UCS Western States Senior Campaign Manager Deborah Moore.
EPN Board President Ruth Greenspan Bell hosted EPN's 3rd annual piano concert and fundraiser, featuring EPN member Steve Silverman, in her home on June 2nd in Washington, DC.
EPN member Judy Katz hosted a Region 3 event in her home in Philadelphia on May 8, giving alumni the chance to meet up and learn more about EPN. EPN Executive Director Michelle Roos spoke along with Bobby McKinstry, an environmental law expert.
On April 29, EPN hosted an alumni event in Chicago/Region 5 at the Environmental Law and Policy Center, allowing colleagues to reconnect and learn about work that EPN is doing to protect and preserve public health and the environment. Participating EPA alumni included Dave Ullrich, Cam Davis, Bharat Mathur, and Janet McCabe.
On April 24, former EPA Region 10 alumni had a chance to catch up and learn more about EPN's work to defend against efforts to undermine public health and the environment at a regional event hosted by EPN and sponsored by Dennis McLerran and the Cascadia Law Group. Guest speakers included Jay Manning, former Washington Ecology Director, and EPN Board member Sally Ericsson.