EPA's Lax Confidential Business Information Policy and the Importance of the Hampshire Associates Study

Wendy Wagner

Feb. 8, 2010

After laying dormant for decades, industries’ abuse of EPA’s permissive confidential business information program (CBI) is finally getting some serious attention. An investigation in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, and more recently articles in the Washington Post and Risk Policy Report; a report by the Environmental Working Group; and posts by Richard Denison at EDF, are turning the tide. Those of us at CPR who have spilled ink on various CBI problems over the years (i.e., Mary Lyndon, Tom McGarity, Sid Shapiro, Rena Steinzor, and myself) are thrilled to witness how these journalists and environmental watchdogs have finally managed to budge EPA on its contemptible program.

One document that has been referenced in several recent reports, but that I think deserves further attention, is an extensive empirical study of EPA’s CBI program by a consultant, Hampshire Associates. EPA commissioned this study in 1992 to evaluate whether EPA’s CBI program was in need of reform. Hampshire Associates documented extensive abuse of the CBI program by regulated industry, particularly in regulatory programs in which EPA does not require any justification for a CBI claim. The report is particularly relevant to current debates because virtually nothing has changed in EPA’s CBI policies since 1992. Continued evidence of CBI overclaiming over the years (see pages 129-35 and 146-47 in this article, where David Michaels and I argue that EPA's CBI program is far too lax) suggests that, if anything, abuse of the CBI privilege may only be getting worse, rather than better since the Hampshire Associates' study.

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