Read the full article by Adam Wagner (The News & Observer)

“A federal judge on Friday dismissed a case brought by environmental groups who were alleging that the Environmental Protection Agency failed to grant their petition to study dozens of forever chemicals linked with Chemours.

U.S. District Court Judge Richard Myers II granted the EPA’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit brought by the Center for Environmental Health, Cape Fear River Watch, Clean Cape Fear and Toxic Free NC.

The case centered around whether the EPA had actually granted the environmental groups’ Toxic Substances Control Act petition to study 54 per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, as the agency said it had. Where the environmental groups asked for individual studies of each of the chemicals, the EPA planned to group the chemicals together and evaluate how those groups impact human health.

Emily Donovan, a cofounder of Clean Cape Fear, said the decision could create a precedent in which the EPA says it is granting chemical safety petitions while not taking the specific actions requested.

‘We are considering an appeal to this disappointing decision that serves no one but the chemical companies who continue to hold hostage our regulatory institutions at the expense of our health and wellbeing,’ Donovan said in a statement.

Typically, petitioners can appeal an outright denial of a TSCA petition to federal court. If the judge there decides there’s insufficient information about chemicals’ impact on health or the environment and they could pose a risk or people could be exposed in large quantities, the judge must grant the original petition.

But Myers ruled that by taking action on PFAS as a whole, the EPA had effectively granted the environmental groups’ petition. As a federal judge, Myers wrote, he lacks the ability to force an agency to take specific actions requested by a petitioner if the overarching request has been granted.

‘EPA reasonably construed the Plaintiffs’ petition as a single petition asking EPA to initiate proceedings to test 54 PFAS. EPA granted the petition to test those 54 substances as a category — PFAS — and has initiated testing on that category of substances,’ Myers wrote.

Additionally, Myers wrote, the EPA’s rulings on petitions like the one filed by the environmental groups simply specify whether additional research is needed. In granting such a petition and seeking additional information, the agency does not need to follow the exact steps set out by the requester.

Forever chemicals have been a major concern in the Cape Fear region since 2017, when the Wilmington StarNews first reported that researchers had discovered unregulated substances from Chemours in Wilmington-area drinking water.

Utilities in the region have plans to spend hundreds of millions of dollars upgrading their water treatment systems and have sued Chemours in an effort to make the chemical company pay for the new technology.

Chemours declined to comment on Friday’s ruling because it is not officially a party to the case, a spokeswoman wrote in an email.

The EPA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.”…