EPA’s Chemical Industry Agenda

Under former Administrator Scott Pruitt, the Environmental Protection Agency has moved to ease regulations on the use of dangerous pesticides and other toxic substances — even overruling the agency's own scientists to advance policies favored by the chemical industry.

A joint investigation by American Oversight and the Environmental Working Group

Reversing the Ban on Chlorpyrifos

On March 29, 2017, then-Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt decided to overrule the agency’s scientists and allow the continued use of the pesticide chlorpyrifos.

In 2016, EPA scientists concluded that chlorpyrifos poses a risk of nervous system damage and birth defects in children. According to the New York Times, chlorpyrifos was banned from most household uses nearly two decades ago, but it is still used today “at about 40,000 farms on about 50 different types of crops, ranging from almonds to apples.”

The decision — which came less than two months after Pruitt took over the agency — to reverse the EPA’s previous findings on chlorpyrifos raised questions about whether Pruitt received policy direction from an industry group.

Weakening the Toxic Substances Control Act

In June 2017, the EPA altered the “framework rules” that govern how the agency  selects chemicals to assess for safety and how it makes its safety determinations under the Toxic Substances Control Act. The law had undergone a major update in 2016, and the new rules released by EPA in June 2017 were significantly weaker and less health-protective than previous versions.

The changes closely aligned with requests made by industry groups and came after Nancy Beck, a high-level employee of the American Chemistry Council, left her ACC post to join the EPA.

What we’re seeking:
  • Communications between EPA officials and industry groups, such as pesticide manufacturers, that have a stake in weakening regulations;
  • Records concerning President Donald Trump’s appointment of pesticide lobbyist Michael Dourson to the role of assistant administrator at the EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention — a controversial nomination that was eventually withdrawn;
  • Records that will shed light on policy influence from outside industry groups and chemical companies on changes to the Toxic Substances Control Act;
  • Communications with private industry groups concerning changes to the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS), a set of quality standards that the EPA itself has estimated prevent thousands of premature deaths, heart attacks, and asthma attacks every year;
  • Guidance documents and communications reflecting attempts to hinder inspections of ethylene oxide (EtO), a carcinogen used in the production of other chemical products;
  • Communications between EPA officials and the American Chemistry Council, Chemours Company, and the law firm Holland & Knight, including emails concerning perfluorinated compounds, a group of chemicals known to cause health complications; and 
  • Records related to a letter Rep. Frank Pallone sent to the EPA concerning reports that the agency had worked to suppress a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study on the health effects of perfluorinated compounds.

Updates

American Oversight and Environmental Working Group Seek Answers about Dourson’s Work at EPA

December 1, 2017
Nonpartisan watchdog American Oversight and the Environmental Working Group (EWG) announced a joint investigation to determine if controversial toxicologist Michael Dourson has violated ethics rules in his work as a top advisor to Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Watchdog Groups Launch Joint Investigation into EPA Oversight of Toxic Substances Control Act

August 30, 2017
American Oversight and the Environmental Working Group (EWG) today opened an investigation into industry influence at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and its role in loosening restrictions on dangerous chemicals imposed through the Toxic Substances Control Act.

American Oversight and Environmental Working Group Challenge EPA Over Failure to Release Pesticide Records

June 22, 2017
American Oversight today filed suit against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to force the release of documents and communications regarding Administrator Scott Pruitt’s decision on March 29th to overrule Agency scientists and permit the continued use of the neurotoxic pesticide chlorpyrifos.
Show all updates

Related Documents

October 4, 2019

EPA Records Regarding the “Integrated Risk Information System Formaldehyde Assessment”

Environmental Protection Agency
Agency Record
July 11, 2019

EPA Communications with the American Chemistry Council, Chemours Company, and Holland & Knight

Environmental Protection Agency
Agency Record
May 13, 2019

USDA Emails with Pesticide Industry and Trade Groups Regarding Pesticides

Department of Agriculture
Agency Record
May 10, 2019

EPA Records Regarding Rollback of Climate Protections

Environmental Protection Agency
Agency Record
May 8, 2019

FOIA to EPA Requesting Communications with Private Interests Related to Mercury Standards Rollback

Environmental Protection Agency
FOIA Request
April 9, 2019

FOIA to EPA Regarding a Interference into a Chemical Investigation

Environmental Protection Agency
FOIA Request
February 14, 2019

FOIA to EPA Seeking Records Relating to EPA’s Rollback of Climate Protections

Environmental Protection Agency
FOIA Request
August 31, 2018

FOIA to EPA Seeking Records Produced to Rep. Frank Pallone in Response to His Letter

Environmental Protection Agency
FOIA Request
August 31, 2018

FOIA to EPA Seeking Communications Between EPA Employees and the White House Seeking Terms Relating to Chemicals

Environmental Protection Agency
FOIA Request
August 31, 2018

FOIA to EPA Seeking Communications with Outside Chemical Groups Regarding a Suppressed Report

Environmental Protection Agency
FOIA Request
August 28, 2018

EPA Records of Nancy Beck Communications with the American Chemistry Council

Environmental Protection Agency
Agency Record
July 16, 2018

FOIA to EPA Regarding the Toxic Substances Control Act

Environmental Protection Agency
FOIA Request
February 28, 2018

Records from EPA Regarding Chloroprene

Environmental Protection Agency
Agency Record
February 13, 2018

FOIA to EPA Regarding Asbestos Regulations

Environmental Protection Agency
FOIA Request
January 31, 2018

FOIA to EPA Seeking Chloroprene Document

Environmental Protection Agency
FOIA Request
January 31, 2018

FOIA to EPA Seeking Formaldehyde Assessment

Environmental Protection Agency
FOIA Request
January 28, 2018

EPA Documents Regarding Pesticide Industry Communications

Environmental Protection Agency
Agency Record
November 30, 2017

FOIA Regarding Dourson Seeking Communications Related to Senate Confirmation Process

Environmental Protection Agency
FOIA Request
November 30, 2017

FOIA Request Seeking Communications About Dourson

Environmental Protection Agency
FOIA Request
November 30, 2017

FOIA Request Regarding Appointment of Dourson Seeking Internal Communications

Environmental Protection Agency
FOIA Request
November 30, 2017

FOIA Request Regarding Appointment of Dourson Seeking External Communications

Environmental Protection Agency
FOIA Request
November 30, 2017

FOIA to EPA Regarding Michael Dourson Seeking Calendar Entries

Environmental Protection Agency
FOIA Request
November 30, 2017

FOIA to EPA Regarding Michael Dourson

Environmental Protection Agency
FOIA Request
June 22, 2017

Complaint: American Oversight v. EPA – Chlorpyrifos (Dismissed)

Environmental Protection Agency
Litigation
April 11, 2017

FOIA Request to USDA Seeking Communications about Decision to Overrule EPA about Chlorpyrifos

Department of Agriculture
FOIA Request
April 11, 2017

FOIA Request to EPA Seeking Communications about Decision to Overrule EPA about Chlorpyrifos

Environmental Protection Agency
FOIA Request