EPA Implementation of Selected Aspects of the Toxic Substances Control Act

RCED-83-62: Published: Dec 7, 1982. Publicly Released: Dec 22, 1982.

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In response to a congressional request, GAO assessed the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) authority to negotiate voluntary agreements with the chemical industry to perform tests on the health and environmental effects of chemical substances, in lieu of issuing administrative rules to require such testing pursuant to the Toxic Substances Control Act. GAO also identified whether opportunities were provided under this approach for public participation.

GAO believes that EPA may negotiate voluntary testing agreements and, in appropriate instances, accept them in lieu of the act's test rules. EPA officials feel that voluntary negotiated testing agreements outside of the formal rulemaking process reduce the time it takes to obtain data on health and environmental effects. They stated that developing a negotiated agreement would require fewer EPA resources than acquiring the same data through a formal rule; in addition, a negotiated agreement lends itself to a cooperative, rather than an adversarial, relationship among all parties. EPA takes the position that issuance of a test rule to require health and environmental effects testing by manufacturers is not necessary under the act when voluntary testing by the manufacturers either has been agreed to or is ongoing. GAO believes that the EPA interpretation of its authority to negotiate agreements with industry for the voluntary testing of priority chemical substances is reasonable. A major shortcoming of the negotiated testing agreement is that it is not enforceable. However, EPA can issue a test rule if an agreement is not lived up to. The negotiated testing process, as described by EPA, provides the opportunity for the public to review and comment on proposed EPA actions at four different points of the process.

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