U.S. EPA Denies Petition to Regulate Lead Ammunition, Continues to Review Lead Sinkers

Sep 12th, 2010 | By | Category: Analysis, News and Notes

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) denied a petition on August 27, 2010, calling for a ban on the production and distribution of lead hunting ammunition.  In a short response to the Petitioners, Assistant EPA Administrator Stephen Owens cited the firearms exclusion in the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), stating:

After careful review, EPA has determined that TSCA does not provide the Agency with the authority to address lead shot and bullets as requested in your petition due to the exclusion found in TSCA sec. 3(2)(B)(v). Consequently, we are denying that portion of your petition.

The petition argued that instances of lead poisoning from ammunition and fishing sinkers “present an unreasonable risk of injury” to both human health and the environment.  In an attachment to the petition, the petitioners present “nearly 500 peer reviewed scientific articles documenting the toxic effects of lead on wildlife species and conclude that the lead components of bullets, shotgun pellets, fishing weights and lures pose an unreasonable risk of injury to human and wildlife health and to the environment.” In addition, the petition specifically addressed the issue of the exclusion:

The petitioners understand that EPA is specifically prohibited from regulating ammunition or firearms under TSCA, but that toxic components of ammunition can be regulated if non-toxic alternatives are commercially available. The petitioners have waited until non-toxic alternatives have become available to submit this petition in an effort to clearly indicate that this petition is not an attempt to regulate ammunition or firearms.

The petition drew substantial fire (pun intended) from hunting and fishing organizations.  The EPA, already under siege amid claims of usurping authority to regulate greenhouse gases, decided that this is a battle it would rather not fight right now and ducked behind the TSCA exclusion.  Because the petition was filed under TSCA, the EPA was required to respond to it within 90 days.

The other part of the petition – regulating lead fishing sinkers – will be reviewed by the EPA. “We are reviewing the request in the petition regarding lead fishing sinkers and will respond to you when we have made a determination on that matter.”  In the press release that accompanied the letter, the EPA stated:

As there are no similar jurisdictional issues relating to the agency’s authority over fishing sinkers, EPA – as required by law – will continue formally reviewing a second part the petition related to lead fishing sinkers.

Those wishing to comment specifically on the fishing tackle issue can do so by visiting http://www.regulations.gov. EPA will consider comments that are submitted by September 15.

About the Author

Steven M. Taber is an environmental attorney with the Irvine, California law firm Taber Law Group. A 1986 graduate of the University of Michigan law school, Steve left a big firm environmental department to focus on providing cost-effective environmental representation to clients. His “Environmental Law & Climate Change Law Blog” summarizes changes and happenings in environmental and climate change law.

Photograph: Rapala by Austin Lutz, College Station, Texas, U.S.A.

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One Comment to “U.S. EPA Denies Petition to Regulate Lead Ammunition, Continues to Review Lead Sinkers”

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