Watchdog Sues EPA Seeking TSCA Program Documents Defining PFAS

The environmental watchdog group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) is suing EPA under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) alleging the agency unlawfully withheld internal documents on how the TSCA program developed its narrow definition of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).

The April 28 suit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, underscores the growing significance of the debate over how regulators and other policymakers define PFAS — a class of thousands of chemicals — for regulatory and assessment purposes.

For example, PEER notes the definition being used by the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) program captures about 6,500 PFAS substances while an alternative definition used by EPA’s research office captures about 12,000 substances.

In its suit, PEER charges that EPA is failing to follow FOIA by withholding from the group documents it requested last October regarding a definition of PFAS that EPA’s Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics (OPPT) posted on its website and included in its National PFAS Testing Strategy.

PEER argues in an April 28 statement that OPPT’s working definition of PFAS “first appeared on its website in 2021, with no scientific antecedents or public review.”

PEER explains that OPPT’s reliance on the same definition in the National PFAS Testing Strategy it released last October led the group to file its FOIA request “for any records that would explain how EPA developed this definition,” but the agency has yet to release any documents.

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