Environmental campaigners vowed to fight President Donald Trump's EPA Thursday after the agency said it would propose that the rocket-fuel chemical perchlorate does not need to be regulated, despite its links to cognitive damage in fetal and child development.
According to the New York Times, the EPA plans to tell the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) that it is "not in the public interest" to regulate the chemical at all, a year after the agency recommended the allowable amount in drinking water be limited to 56 parts per billion (ppb).
The 2019 proposal was already 10 to 50 times higher than what water safety experts recommend, the Times reported.
The new recommendation defies a court order, the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) said, which was issued in 2018 after the group sued over the Obama administration's inaction on regulating perchlorate.
"EPA's cynical decision to defy a court order and the law, and to ignore the science that, as the American Academy of Pediatrics has said, dictates a strong perchlorate standard to protect vulnerable kids, is a deeply disturbing violation of the agency's mission," Erik Olson of the NRDC told The Hill.
"We will fight this," the organization added on Twitter.
BREAKING: @EPAAWheeler & Trump’s @EPA are choosing NOT to regulate #perchlorate, a dangerous chemical linked to fetal & infant brain damage and found in the tap water of millions of Americans. This decision ignores science and the law. We will fight this. https://t.co/4vb87Ip5ZS
— NRDC (@NRDC) May 14, 2020
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The Obama administration proposed limiting perchlorate, which can interfere with the thyroid gland and hormone production necessary for development, to 15 ppb in 2011. The EPA revealed that same year that between five million and 16 million people in at least 26 states were exposed to toxic levels of perchlorate. People who live near military facilities where the chemical is used in rocket fuel are especially at risk.
The Department of Defense and military contractors including Northrup Grumman and Lockheed Martin, which have worked closely with the Trump administration, have spent years fighting regulation of the substance.
When former President Barack Obama's EPA still had not released official regulations on the chemical by 2016, the NRDC filed a lawsuit, resulting in the court order requiring the agency to announce limits by June 2020. The order left the responsibility to regulate perchlorate in the hands of President Donald Trump and EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler.
Some states have taken matters into their own hands during the delay, limiting perchlorate in drinking water to as low as 2 ppb. The action by states is being used by Trump's EPA to argue that the chemical now poses little health risk.
The agency's new draft policy states that monitoring and limiting perchlorate "does not present a meaningful opportunity for health risk reduction for persons served by public water systems."
Food and Water Watch called the EPA's refusal to regulate the chemical "yet another abdication of duty by those that are entrusted with protecting Americans from needless and preventable harm."
"It's also yet another example of Trump and his cronies prioritizing corporate profit above all else—even the health and safety of children," the group's media relations director, Seth Gladstone, told Common Dreams. "Shameful does not even begin to describe this president and this administration."