Trump makes EPA leader, secretary of state picks

President-elect Donald Trump announced another addition to his cabinet: Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt will lead the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the new administration. Environmentalists criticized the choice because Pruitt has a history of suing the EPA over regulatory overreach.

Reports also state that Trump chose ExxonMobil chairman and CEO Rex Tillerson to serve as secretary of state. According to forbes.com, Tillerson has supported addressing climate change with a carbon tax. Tillerson must be confirmed by the Senate to assume the post.

EPA report unclear about fracking effects on drinking water

The EPA’s six-year, $29 million review of whether hydraulic fracturing is contaminating drinking water cited lack of data as the reason for inconclusive results. The report noted that the practice poses risks in some cases, but not enough data existed to reach an informed conclusion.

Reactions from industry and environmental groups were varied, with some praising the report and others accusing the agency of giving in to politics before a new administration takes effect.

EPA includes subsurface intrusion to Hazard Ranking System

The EPA finalized a proposal to expand the hazards that qualify sites for the Superfund National Priorities List (NPL). EPA assesses sites using the Hazard Ranking System (HRS), which quantifies negative impacts to air, groundwater, surface water and soil. Sites that receive HRS scores above a specific threshold can be proposed for placement on the NPL.

Subsurface intrusion is the migration of hazardous substances, pollutants or contaminants from contaminated groundwater or soil into an overlying building. Subsurface intrusion can result in people being exposed to harmful levels of hazardous substances, which can raise the lifetime risk of cancer or chronic disease. EPA targets sites on the NPL for further investigation and possible remediation through the Superfund program. Only sites added to the NPL are eligible to receive federal funding for long-term cleanup leading to a permanent remedy.

EPA names first 10 chemicals it will review under TSCA reform

The EPA announced the first ten chemicals it will evaluate for potential risks to human health and the environment under Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) reform. The new law gives the agency the power to require safety reviews of all chemicals in the marketplace to protect public health and the environment.

The first 10 chemicals to be evaluated are:

  • 1,4-Dioxane
  • 1-Bromopropane
  • Asbestos
  • Carbon Tetrachloride
  • Cyclic Aliphatic Bromide Cluster
  • Methylene Chloride
  • N-methylpyrrolidone
  • Pigment Violet 29
  • Tetrachloroethylene, also known as perchloroethylene
  • Trichloroethylene

TSCA, as amended by the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act, requires the EPA to publish this list by Dec. 19, 2016. These chemicals were drawn from EPA’s 2014 TSCA Work Plan, a list of 90 chemicals selected based on their potential for high hazard and exposure as well as other considerations.