Environmental Group Appeals EPA’s Decision-Making Framework
On January 5, 2017, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) filed a Petition for Review in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit (Second Circuit) of what is characterized as a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) “final rule” issued November 7, 2017, entitled “New Chemicals Decision-Making Framework: Working Approach to Making Determinations under Section 5 of TSCA.” The Framework Document, as it has come to be called, is the “final rule” at issue and was posted in EPA’s docket opened for comments related to its two Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) public meetings that took place in December. It is reasonable to assume that the Framework Document is not referred to by EPA as a final rule and was not published in the Federal Register as a final rule because EPA believes it is a document that outlines a conceptual approach to how EPA may go about making decisions on new chemicals. EPA specifically states the document, referred to as a “draft” in the Federal Register notice that announced the two public meetings, “outlines EPA’s approach to making decisions on new chemical notices submitted to EPA under TSCA section 5, as amended by the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act,” and includes EPA’s “general decision framework for new chemicals” and a breakdown of how EPA “intends to approach each of the five types of new-chemical determinations required under the statute.”
The citizen action petition raises novel and interesting legal questions, and is quite different from the other petitions for review, one for each framework final rule, that are pending. Whether the newest legal challenge will survive procedural motions that EPA can be expected to file to dismiss the action remains to be seen.