October 23, 2017

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EPA Seeks Comment on Nominations to “Augmented” Science Advisory Committee on Chemicals

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published a Federal Register notice on August 3, 2017, providing the names and affiliations of additional candidates currently under consideration for appointment to the Science Advisory Committee on Chemicals (SACC). The notice states that the purpose of the SACC is to provide independent advice and expert consultation at the request of the EPA Administrator with respect to the scientific and technical aspects of risk assessments, methodologies, and pollution prevention measures or approaches. According to the notice, after further consideration of the objectives and scope of SACC activities, EPA is considering additional candidates for SACC membership from the August 26, 2016, Federal Register notice pool of requested nominees. EPA is also considering the 29 candidates for membership previously identified in the December 9, 2016, Federal Registernotice. EPA will consider comments that it previously received on the 29 candidates. EPA states that it anticipates selecting approximately six additional SACC members “with specific expertise and perspectives representing industry, labor, animal protection, government, public health, and public interest groups.” EPA invites public comments on the candidates, and will use them in selecting the additional chartered SACC members. Comments are due September 5, 2017.

Background

Under the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act, which amended the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), EPA must establish a committee “to provide independent advice and expert consultation, at the request of the Administrator, with respect to the scientific and technical aspects of issues relating to the implementation of this title.” As reported in our February 14, 2017, blog item, “EPA Announces the Membership of the Science Advisory Committee on Chemicals,” on January 17, 2017, EPA appointed 18 expert members from diverse backgrounds, professional experiences, and perspectives that would contribute to the breadth and balance of scientific viewpoints on the committee. EPA held the announcement, however, until posting it on February 9, 2017. We noted then that “[&zwsp;i]t thus is the case that the Obama Administration took very prompt steps to ensure that formation was completed during its period in office, perhaps in an effort to select a membership more to its liking and preferences.”

Qualifications of Members

The August 3, 2017, Federal Register notice states that SACC members “are scientists who have sufficient professional qualifications, including training and experience, to provide expert comments on the scientific and technical aspects of risk assessments, methodologies, and pollution prevention measures or approaches.” The EPA Administrator appoints individuals to serve on the SACC for staggered terms of one to three years. Each nominee selected by the Administrator, before being formally appointed, is required to submit a confidential statement of employment and financial interests, fully disclosing, among other financial interests, the nominee’s sources of research support, if any.

Process of Obtaining Nominees

On August 26, 2016, EPA published a Federal Register notice providing notice of intent to establish the SACC, describing its purpose, and announcing the opportunity for the public to provide nominations for EPA’s consideration. The nomination period was open for 45 days and ended on October 11, 2016. In response, EPA received approximately 100 nominees.

EPA states that it considered the following criteria to select candidates from these nominations: interest and availability to participate in SACC meetings; absence of financial conflicts of interest; absence of the appearance of a loss of impartiality; scientific expertise; and backgrounds and experiences that would contribute to the diversity of scientific viewpoints on the SACC, including professional experiences in government, labor, public health, public interest, animal protection, industry, or other groups.

Based on these criteria, EPA identified 64 additional candidates for further consideration for membership on the SACC. EPA will also further consider the 29 candidates identified in the December 9, 2016, Federal Register notice, as well as the public comments that were previously received on the 29 candidates. Although EPA states that brief biographical sketches for these candidates are posted on its website at https://www.epa.gov/tsca-peer-review, this information is not yet available.

Commentary

We encourage submission of comments on the candidates by all stakeholders to help inform EPA decisions on augmenting SACC membership. We find ourselves in agreement with a view that the SACC would benefit from an expanded membership to provide needed expertise and better ensure that it is fairly balanced in the points of view represented. We were not convinced this was the case when the membership was first constituted.

©2017 Bergeson & Campbell, P.C.

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