Under federal law, the EPA can’t approve new chemicals with serious health or environmental risks unless it comes up with ways to minimize the dangers. And if the EPA is unsure, the law allows the agency to order lab testing that would clarify the potential health and environmental harms. In the case of these new plastic-based fuels, the agency didn’t do either of those things. In approving the fuel, the EPA didn’t require any lab tests, air monitoring or controls that would reduce the release of the cancer-causing pollutants or people’s exposure to them.
In January 2022, the EPA announced the initiative to streamline the approval of petroleum alternatives in what a press release called “part of the Biden-Harris administration’s actions to confront the climate crisis”. While the program cleared new fuels made from plants, it also signed off on fuels made from plastics even though they are petroleum-based and contribute to the release of planet-warming greenhouse gases.