August 15, 2022

Volume XII, Number 227

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August 12, 2022

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GAO Finds Remaining Priority Recommendations for EPA Include Four Priority Recommendations for the IRIS Program

On July 8, 2022, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) publicly released its 2022 update on its priority open recommendations for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In June 2021, GAO identified 22 priority recommendations for EPA. According to GAO, EPA has since implemented ten of those recommendations by requiring states to report quarterly to EPA on the number of lead service lines in each public water system in the state and providing direction to staff on integrating climate change information into risk assessments at nonfederal Superfund sites, as well as other actions. GAO states that it is not adding any additional priority recommendations this year. The total number of priority recommendations remaining is 12. These recommendations involve the following areas:

  • Assessing and controlling toxic chemicals;

  • Reducing pollution in the nation’s waters;

  • Ensuring cybersecurity at EPA;

  • Addressing data and risk communication issues for drinking water and wastewater infrastructure;

  • Managing climate change risks; and

  • Protecting the nation’s air quality.

According to GAO, EPA’s continued attention to these issues could lead to significant improvements in government operations.
 
Regarding assessing and controlling toxic chemicals, GAO states that EPA’s ability to help protect public health and the environment effectively “depends on credible and timely assessments of risks posed by toxic chemicals,” including per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). According to GAO, by implementing the following four priority recommendations in this area, EPA would improve its ability to prepare and issue Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) chemical assessments:

  • To develop the timely chemical risk information that EPA needs to conduct its mission effectively, the EPA Administrator should require the Office of Research and Development (ORD) to re-evaluate its draft proposed changes to the IRIS assessment process in light of the issues raised in GAO’s 2008 report and “ensure that any revised process periodically assesses the level of resources that should be dedicated to this significant program to meet user needs and maintain a viable IRIS database.”

  • To ensure better the credibility of IRIS assessments by enhancing their timeliness and certainty, the EPA Administrator should require ORD to establish a written policy that clearly describes the applicability of the timeframes for each type of IRIS assessment and ensures that the timeframes are realistic and provide greater predictability to stakeholders.

  • The EPA Administrator should direct the Assistant Administrator of ORD to provide more information publicly about where chemical assessments are in the development process, including internal and external steps in the process, and changes to assessment milestones.

  • The EPA Administrator should include in ORD’s strategic plan (or subsidiary strategic plans) identification of EPA’s universe of chemical assessment needs; how the IRIS Program is being resourced to meet user needs; and specific implementation steps that indicate how IRIS will achieve the plan’s objectives, such as specific metrics to define progress in meeting user needs.

©2022 Bergeson & Campbell, P.C.National Law Review, Volume XII, Number 195
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About this Author

Lynn Bergeson, Campbell PC, Toxic Substances Control Act Attorney, federal insecticide lawyer, industrial biotechnology legal counsel, Food Drug Administration law
Managing Partner

Lynn L. Bergeson has earned an international reputation for her deep and expansive understanding of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), European Union Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH), and especially how these regulatory programs pertain to nanotechnology, industrial biotechnology, synthetic biology, and other emerging transformative technologies. Her knowledge of and involvement in the policy process allows her to develop client-focused strategies whether...

202-557-3801
Carla Hutto, Bergeson Campbell PC environmental law regulatory analyst,Toxic Substances Control Act law attorney
Regulatory Analyst

Since 1996, Carla Hutton has monitored, researched, and written about regulatory and legislative issues that may potentially affect Bergeson & Campbell, P.C. (B&C®) clients. She is responsible for creating a number of monthly and quarterly regulatory updates for B&C's clients, as well as other documents, such as chemical-specific global assessments of regulatory developments and trends. She authors memoranda for B&C clients on regulatory and legislative developments, providing information that is focused, timely and applicable to client...

202-557-3809
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