Sens. Tom Carper, D-Delaware; and Tammy Duckworth and Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, sent a letter March 27 to Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler seeking information related to the agency’s recent decision to question EPA career staff’s assessment of the health risks and political appointees’ handling of potentially illegal releases of ethylene oxide, a chemical identified by EPA as a carcinogen.

In the letter, the senators request documents shedding light on the Donald Trump EPA’s enforcement efforts at the Sterigenics Illinois plant and its management of risks posed by EtO at facilities nationwide. The senators also requested documents related to EPA’s decision to request comments on and potentially re-assess EPA’s 2016 conclusion that the chemical is carcinogenic, a topic that is likely to be raised at today’s EPA public hearing.

“Recent newspaper reports document the potential for higher cancer rates coincident with higher detected levels of EtO near the Sterigenics facility in Illinois,” the senators wrote. “These reports further express concern that EPA political officials may have directed EPA career staff to cease inspecting facilities using the chemical and refused to take immediate action. These news stories, and the resulting lack of public confidence in EPA’s enforcement efforts, led the governor of Illinois to direct the owner of the facility to cease using EtO last month. EPA concluded in 2016 that its ‘confidence in the hazard characterization of EtO as ‘carcinogenic to humans’ is high.’ EPA now appears to be entertaining the American Chemistry Council’s September 2018 request to reassess this conclusion, and the agency has formally requested public comment on whether EPA’s 2016 conclusion is accurate in a recent regulatory proceeding.”

In January, Duckworth’s staff received information alleging that senior political appointees at EPA instructed career officials to avoid conducting inspections of facilities that emit EtO. Carper, Duckworth and Durbin requested an EPA inspector general investigation into these allegations.

The full text of the letter is available at