Congressman Mike Pompeo, R-Kansas, sent a letter asking EPA to answer questions about their role in chemical safety management, specifically in implementing the Clean Air Act's General Duty Clause.
"As of now, the law can be interpreted in such a way that an EPA regional inspector can determine that the General Duty Clause applies to any chemical he or she sees fit," Pompeo warns in the letter. "The danger with such a vague law is twofold: It leads to overzealous implementation based on discretionary boundaries for enforcement, and it reduces safety because of the confusion as to what processes and chemicals are actually regulated."
The letter is part of an effort by Pompeo to get EPA to follow existing law in implementing chemical safety policy. Pompeo has introduced legislation (HR 888) that would require EPA to enter into a transparent rulemaking process to define the scope of the General Duty Clause. The bill would also require the agency to closely follow Congress's intent to have EPA hold a separate role than that of the Department of Homeland Security, which is charged with chemical plant security.
The letter goes on to offer seven questions to the EPA:
Will EPA issue a regulation to define the scope of the General Duty Clause, including a complete list of chemicals covered?
Do you believe EPA has the authority to regulate chemical plant security under the General Duty Clause?
What steps has EPA taken to assist covered entities in complying with the General Duty Clause?
What provisions in the Clean Air Act's Risk Management Program do you believe are absent or deficient which would result in your applying the General Duty Clause?
Does EPA plan to apply the General Duty Clause to regulate chemical plant security?
Do you believe EPA has the authority to mandate the use and/or consideration of Inherently Safer Technologies under Section 112(R) of the Clean Air Act?
Does EPA plan on issuing any guidance or proposing any rule mandating the rule or consideration of Inherently Safer Technologies?
Environmentalist groups have actively opposed the idea of EPA entering into a transparent rulemaking process that recognizes limits placed on EPA by Congress. They have instead asked that EPA interpret and assert its own authority regardless of congressional intent.