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April 2010

Big Changes in Store for TSCA

By James A. Vroman  

Congress enacted the Toxic Substances Control Act ("TSCA") in 1976 amid much fanfare.  Ostensibly, the Act gave the U.S. EPA authority to regulate chemicals manufactured in, or imported into, the United States with the goal of banning or restricting the use of chemicals that could pose an unacceptable risk to human health or the environment.  However, from the date of its enactment, the "authority" the Agency had to regulate the manufacture or importation of chemicals under TSCA was severely limited and restricted.  See, High Risk Series: An Update. GAO-09-271. Washington, D.C.: Jan. 22, 2009, at pp. 22-23.

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Carbon Disclosure Project Confirms That Current Greenhouse Gas Trends Will Not Meet Obama's US Reduction Targets

Grayson_Lynn_COLORBy E. Lynn Grayson


The Carbon Disclosure Project's (CDP) latest report shows that the trends in US greenhouse gas emissions are not on track to meet President Obama's 2020 reduction target for the United States. According to the report, CDP has evaluated annual information collected from S&P 100 companies for the years 2007-2009 and found that the greenhouse gas emissions will, at their current trajectory, produce a 3.66% absolute increase in emissions by 2020, relative to 2009 levels.

In November, 2009, President Obama committed to a 17% absolute reduction in emissions by 2020, measured against a 2005 baseline. While not yet legally binding, this commitment represents a crucial change in the US position on climate change. On a related note, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has recommended a 80% reduction by 2050.

The CDP is an independent not-for-profit organization holding the largest database of corporate climate change information in the world. A copy of the CDP report addressing current US emissions trends is available at

Office of EPA Inspector General Says Updated Final Vapor Intrusion Guidance Needed

Grayson_Lynn_COLORBy E. Lynn Grayson


Henry Schuver, Ph.D., EPA RCRA Corrective Action Office, recently speaking about vapor intrusion affecting site remediation and redevelopment projects at the "Sustainable Property Transactions: Retooling The Business of Contaminated Sites Redevelopment" program held in Philadelphia, addressed the status of the Agency's guidance in this area. He advised that EPA hopes to finalize guidance on vapor intrusion by the end of 2012. More important, EPA anticipates release of an interim guidance document yet this year. These efforts appear to be prompted, in part, by the December 14, 2009 report from the EPA Office of Inspector General "Lack of Final Guidance on Vapor Intrusion Impedes Efforts to Address Indoor Air Risks."

The report highlighted the concerns with the 2002 draft vapor intrusion guidance noting it has limited purpose and scope. The report recommended that EPA issue final guidance on the evaluation and mitigation of vapor intrusion risks, including final toxicity values for TCE and PCE.

The EPA Office of Inspector General report is available at

Equipment Lessor Deemed An "Owner" Under CERCLA: Liable For Remediation Costs

By James A. Vroman and Genevieve J. Essig 

A recent decision from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois has provided a new perspective on who could be held liable for a release of hazardous substances as an “owner” under CERCLA.  See United States v. Saporito, No. 07-C-3169 (N.D. Ill. Feb. 9, 2010).  In a February 9, 2010 decision, the Honorable Rebecca R. Pallmeyer found an owner of equipment leased for use in an electroplating operation to be a “current owner” within the meaning of CERCLA, which resulted in his being liable for the $1.5 million U.S. EPA had expended to remove hazardous liquids and sludge from the former site of the electroplating business.

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Partners in Pollution Report More Emissions Come From Canadian Facilities

Grayson_Lynn_COLORBy E. Lynn Grayson


Who Knew? A recent report by the Pollution Watch, a joint initiative between the Canadian Environmental Law Association and Environmental Defense, reveals that Canadian facilities had greater releases of cancer-causing pollutants than U.S. companies. Comparing 2007 TRI data and Canada's National Pollutant Release Inventory data, Canadian companies, on average, emitted three times more pollutants than American companies on a per facility basis. Formaldehyde and mercury compound releases also are much higher from Canadian facilities. There is some positive news--overall, there has been a decrease in releases to the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River basin since 2003 when similar data was last reviewed and compared.

These findings are discussed in greater detail in a document titled "The Partners in Pollution 2 Report" now available at

Inter-American Commission on Human Rights Allows Complaint By Mossville, LA Residents

Grayson_Lynn_COLORBy E. Lynn Grayson


The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights ruled in favor of admitting a human rights complaint on behalf of Mossville, LA residents. The decision marks the first time, according to Advocates for Environmental Human Rights, that the Commission has taken jurisdication over an environmental racism case in the U.S.

The Commission is an entity of the Organization of American States (OAS) of which the U.S. is a member. Mossville is an historic African-American community in southwest Louisiana that is surrounded by fourteen industrial facilities.

More information about this case and related environmental claims is available at