DC Circuit tosses EPA chemical test orders

By Ellie Borst | 07/08/2024 01:31 PM EDT

The ruling, which marks the first time a court has interpreted the TSCA standard on data requirements, is a setback for the agency.

EPA headquarters in Washington.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit issued a ruling on a Toxic Substances Control Act standard, which says EPA must provide "substantial evidence in the record taken as a whole" when issuing test orders. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

A federal appeals court issued a blow to EPA’s authority to require companies to fill data gaps on a chemical’s toxicity, marking the first time a federal court has weighed in on the standard under the Toxic Substances Control Act.

In an opinion Friday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit vacated and remanded test orders EPA sent to seven companies requiring new tests be done to better understand the chronic health effects of 1,1,2-trichloroethane, a “high priority” solvent used to create plastics and petrochemicals.

Writing for the unanimous three-judge panel, Judge Karen Henderson wrote EPA “failed to provide substantial evidence” that the test orders were necessary. Henderson, appointed by former President George H.W. Bush, was joined by Judges Florence Pan, a Biden appointee, and Justin Walker, a Trump appointee.


EPA in 2022 ordered seven companies, represented by the Vinyl Institute, to conduct a study on how the chemical impacts the reproductive systems in birds. The agency argued the study was critical in filling missing information about the long-term health impacts of 1,1,2-trichloroethane, since the single comparable study was from 1979 and only looked at the short-term toxicity effects.