Congressional Dems charge EPA with 'capitulation'
Sens. Duckworth, Durbin lead letter calling for stronger regulations on ethylene oxide
By Ted Cox
Illinois congressional Democrats are charging the Environmental Protection Agency with “capitulation” to ease regulations on ethylene oxide.
Led by Sens. Tammy Duckworth and Dick Durbin, Congressmen Bill Foster, Sean Casten, Brad Schneider, and Dan Lipinski wrote a letter to the EPA Tuesday stating they’re “alarmed” at what appears to be “an indefensible capitulation by EPA to the demands of the chemical industry” on EtO.
The chemical, used in sterilization, has been blamed for a “cancer cluster” in the suburbs surrounding the Sterigenics facilities in Willowbrook, as well as for an increased risk of cancer in Lake County at Medline Industries in Waukegan and Vantage Specialty Chemicals in Gurnee.
The firms have all insisted that were well below legal limits for EtO emissions, but critics have charged that the EPA never updated its regulations after the Obama administration formally declared EtO to be a carcinogen at the end of 2016. The members of Congress have previously argued for EtO regulations to be strengthened.
Tuesday’s letter suggested the EPA was encouraging “the chemical industry” to lobby to actually weaken EtO regulations. It charged the EPA with what it called “a transparent invitation for the public — including chemical industries — to weaken EPA’s forthcoming rules intended to protect Illinoisans and Americans throughout the nation from elevated levels of cancer risk resulting from exposure to ethylene oxide.”
The letter added: “Since EPA updated the carcinogenic risk value of EtO, the American Chemistry Council has lobbied EPA to withdraw its assessment.” It accused the chemical industry of “following the playbook established by the fossil-fuel industry when it sought to undermine climate-change science and by tobacco companies when they attempted to cover up the danger of their products.”
“We strongly urge you to publicly commit to at least preserving, if not strengthening, EPA’s current risk value of EtO.”
Sen. Tammy Duckworth (One Illinois/Ted Cox)
The letter specifically named the EPA’s Nancy Beck, a former ACC lobbyist who now serves as deputy assistant administrator of chemical safety and pollution prevention, charging that she has “specifically criticized EPA ethylene oxide risk assessment.” Beck was also named by Duckworth just this week in her call for more oversight on EPA hiring.
The letter urged acting EPA head Andrew Wheeler to show his agency is “working for the public good and not private profits,” asking, “On behalf of our constituents and communities across the country, we strongly urge you to publicly commit to at least preserving, if not strengthening, EPA’s current risk value of EtO.”
The Stop Sterigenics grassroots group, which distributed the letter, said it showed "that the EPA betrayed us” and charged the ACC with misleading the public and politicians.