By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
On June 20, 2019, Senators Tom Udall (D-NM), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Ed Markey (D-MA), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) sent a letter to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew Wheeler requesting information on EPA’s implementation of the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act (Lautenberg Act). The letter notes that the Lautenberg Act was intended to enact reforms addressing “longstanding structural problems” with the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). According to the letter, EPA’s implementation of the Lautenberg Act “has deviated dramatically from Congress’ intent and the new law’s requirements.” The Senators’ letter requests EPA’s responses to a number of questions regarding the following areas of concern:
- Section 4: EPA’s failure to use its enhanced information authorities under TSCA. Under the Lautenberg Act, EPA can now acquire information where needed to review new chemicals or to prioritize or review the risks of a chemical already on the market. The law also makes clear that EPA can require the development of real-world exposure information. According to the Senators, in the nearly three years since enactment of the Lautenberg Act, “EPA has not once used these new authorities, and seems to be avoiding using them at all costs -- even where there are critical information gaps.”
- Section 5, Part 1: EPA’s failure to protect workers when reviewing new chemicals under TSCA. The Lautenberg Act strengthened EPA’s authority to regulate chemicals that may present risks to workers “by explicitly naming workers as a ‘potentially exposed or susceptible subpopulation’ and requiring that EPA consider and address potential risks to workers when assessing new or existing chemicals.” According to the Senators, EPA is failing to use TSCA’s health standard, which is more stringent than the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) workplace standards, to determine whether any of the new chemicals “may present an unreasonable risk” to workers. Where EPA finds a new chemical does or may present serious risks to workers, it is allowing that chemical onto the market without imposing any conditions to protect the workers. EPA’s “only justification for this is that it simply ‘expects’ that workers will protect themselves from harmful workplace exposures by wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) that the company is not required to provide or train workers to use properly.” This deference to OSHA regulations “allow[s] workers to be exposed to chemical risks that are a thousand or more times higher than are acceptable under TSCA.
- Section 5, Part 2: EPA’s failure to adequately identify and review “reasonably foreseen” conditions of use when reviewing new chemicals under TSCA. When reviewing a new chemical, the Lautenberg Act directs EPA to examine the chemical under its “conditions of use” -- “the circumstances, as determined by the Administrator, under which a chemical substance is intended, known, or reasonably foreseen to be manufactured, processed, distributed in commerce, used, or disposed of.” According to the Senators, “EPA has attempted to skirt this requirement for an integrated assessment of both intended and reasonably foreseen conditions of use in several ways that are contrary” to TSCA’s requirements:
- For most new chemicals that EPA has reviewed in recent months, it simply asserts there are no such reasonably foreseen uses;
- For those new chemicals where EPA identifies a reasonably foreseen use, it merely states, without providing any analysis, that it expects that use to present no greater risk than the intended use. By doing this, EPA not only fails to demonstrate that the reasonably foreseen use is not likely to present an unreasonable risk, it also fails to consider that the combination of use could present such a risk; and
- For the remaining new chemicals where EPA does identify a reasonably foreseen use and identifies some potential concern with that use, EPA has separately promulgated a significant new use rule (SNUR) that requires a company to notify EPA prior to engaging in that reasonably foreseen use. In these SNURs, EPA has not made clear that it would assess the potential exposure and risks from that use in combination with the already approved intended uses as part of its review of any such notice, however.
The Senators note that none of these recent policy changes to EPA’s examination of new chemicals’ conditions of use has been made public or subject to a public comment opportunity.
- Section 6: EPA’s failure to assess even known conditions of use and pathways of exposure in conducting risk evaluations of existing chemicals under TSCA. The Lautenberg Act requires EPA to evaluate potential risks arising from activities across the entire lifecycle of a chemical, considering all “known” and “reasonably foreseen” circumstances, not just those “intended” by a company making or using a chemical. The letter states that EPA “has sought in numerous ways to limit the scope of its risk evaluations and risk determinations.” In its final Risk Evaluation Rule, EPA “asserted sweeping authority to pick and choose what activities and what exposures it includes in its risk evaluation of a chemical.” According to EPA, it can ignore any exposure to a chemical that also falls under the authority of another agency, such as OSHA, regardless of whether that agency has actually taken any action to mitigate the risks of the chemical. EPA also stated that it will exclude “legacy” activities associated with a chemical. EPA has begun to conduct risk evaluations that exclude most or all pathways of exposure to a chemical that falls under the jurisdiction of another statute administered by EPA.
- Section 14: EPA’s failure to provide timely public access to non-confidential information and access by eligible parties to confidential business information under TSCA. The Lautenberg Act amended Section 14, enhancing requirements for companies’ assertion and substantiation, and EPA’s review of confidential business information (CBI) claims; for providing public access to chemical information; and for providing expanded access to CBI. Although these provisions were immediately effective, nearly three years after enactment, “there is little evidence that EPA is effectively implementing these provisions or requiring compliance with them.”
The letter is well written if not quite one-sided. Complicated issues require thoughtful analysis, and this letter demands a clear and compelling response from industry advocates that may well respectfully disagree with the Senators’ position on many of the points made in the letter. We suspect this letter may well be a point of discussion at Monday’s TSCA at Three conference.
By Lynn L. Bergeson and Margaret R. Graham, M.S.
On June 14, 2019, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that on May 24, 2019, EPA received manufacturer requests for EPA to conduct risk evaluations of diisodecyl phthalate (DIDP) from ExxonMobil Chemical Company and diisononyl phthalate (DINP) from ExxonMobil Chemical Company, Evonik Corporation, and Teknor Apex, both through the American Chemistry Council’s High Phthalates Panel. EPA states that both DIDP and DINP belong to a family of chemicals commonly referred to as phthalates, which are used as plasticizers in the production of plastic and plastic coatings to increase flexibility and were identified in the 2014 Update to the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) Work Plan.
Within 15 business days of receiving a facially complete request (i.e., submission appears to be consistent with rule requirements), EPA states that it must notify the public of receipt of this request under 40 C.F.R. Section 702.37(e)(2); and within 60 business days of receipt of a facially complete request, EPA will submit for publication the receipt of the request in the Federal Register, open a public docket for the request, and provide no less than 45 calendar days for public comment. After the comment period closes, EPA has up to 60 days to either grant or deny the request to conduct a risk evaluation under 40 C.F.R. Section 702.37(e)(6). More information on Manufacturer Requests is available on EPA’s website.
By Lynn L. Bergeson and Richard E. Engler, Ph.D.
On May 20, 2019, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that on May 30, 2019, it will begin publishing Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) Section 5 notices including premanufacture notices (PMN), microbial commercial activity notices (MCAN), and significant new use notices (SNUN), their attachments, including any health and safety studies, any modifications thereto, and all other associated information in ChemView -- in the form they are received by EPA, without review by EPA. EPA states that it will not be reviewing confidential business information (CBI)-sanitized filings before publishing. EPA states that this announcement will be the first of several reminders that EPA sends and, in addition, EPA has incorporated a reminder to check accompanying sanitized submissions as part of the Central Data Exchange (CDX) reporting module for TSCA Section 5 notices.
EPA’s announcement states the following as guidance for submitters to take heed of before submitting their TSCA Section 5 notices:
- Verify the asserted CBI claims are correct and consistent; and
- Verify the sanitized versions of the form, attachments, and file names are checked for proper and consistent CBI redactions and that watermarks or stamps indicating CBI are removed.
EPA does not specify how long after submission the documents may be posted, but submitters should expect a very short turn-around. Bergeson & Campbell, P.C. (B&C®) has addressed the topic of CBI before, most recently on our podcast, All Things Chemical™. When completing a PMN, a submitter must take care to ensure that all information that must be protected as CBI is marked as such. A submitter cannot expect EPA to extrapolate a claim for CBI in one part of a form to the rest of the document and its attachments. B&C strongly suggests that a submitter review the sanitized form of an entire document (e.g., a PMN and its attachments) to ensure that all sensitive information is redacted before submitting the document to EPA.
Do not wait until May 30. Begin developing and practicing good CBI practices today.
By Lynn L. Bergeson and Margaret R. Graham, M.S.
On May 9, 2019, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it would soon be making available a signed action signed on May 6, 2019, that identifies chemical substances for inactive designation according to the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) Inventory Notification (Active-Inactive) Requirements rule. The pre-publication version of the notice is available here. Specifically, EPA states that the signed action is a companion to the first version of the TSCA Chemical Substance Inventory with all listings designated as active or identified as inactive, which was posted on the EPA TSCA Inventory web page on February 19, 2019, and it will initiate a 90-day period after which substances identified as inactive will be designated as inactive. Because the action was signed on May 6, 2019, inactive designations will become effective on Monday, August 5, 2019.
Starting on August 5, 2019, manufacturers and processors are required to notify EPA before reintroducing into commerce a substance designated as inactive on the TSCA Inventory. Manufacturers and processors can notify EPA via a Notice of Activity Form B, found in EPA's Central Data Exchange (CDX). Upon receiving such notification, EPA will change the designation of substances from inactive to active.
For more information, visit EPA’s TSCA Inventory Notification (Active-Inactive) Rule site.
By Lynn L. Bergeson, Charles M. Auer, Richard E. Engler, Ph.D., and Carla N. Hutton
On April 5, 2019, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a final rule that will establish final significant new use rules (SNUR) under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) for 13 chemical substances that are the subject of premanufacture notices (PMN). 84 Fed. Reg. 13531. The final rule is significant because the 13 chemical substances are not also subject to consent orders. During the review, EPA identified certain reasonably foreseen conditions of use that it designated as significant new uses in the final SNURs. The final SNURs effectively prohibit the designated new use unless a person submits a notice to EPA, EPA makes a determination, and it takes any necessary action to mitigate any identified potential risk. The final rule will become effective on June 4, 2019. Please see our full memorandum for more information on this final rule.
By Lynn L. Bergeson, Charles M. Auer, and Carla N. Hutton
On March 27, 2019, the House Science, Space, and Technology Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight and Subcommittee on Environment held a hearing on “EPA’s IRIS Program: Reviewing its Progress and Roadblocks Ahead.” The hearing focused on issues with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) Program, as described in two recent reports issued by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), Chemical Assessments: Status of EPA’s Efforts to Produce Assessments and Implement the Toxic Substances Control Act (Chemical Assessments Report) and High-Risk Series: Substantial Efforts Needed to Achieve Greater Progress on High-Risk Areas (High-Risk Report). Please see our full memorandum for more information on what transpired at the hearing, including some background and commentary.
By Lynn L. Bergeson and Margaret R. Graham, M.S.
On March 20, 2019, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced it was releasing a list of 40 chemicals to begin the prioritization process required by the amended Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). New TSCA requires EPA to designate 20 chemicals as “high-priority” for subsequent risk evaluation and 20 chemicals as “low-priority,” meaning that risk evaluation is not warranted at this time. The 20 high priority candidate chemicals include:
- Seven chlorinated solvents;
- Six phthalates;
- Four flame retardants;
- Formaldehyde (which has been studied by EPA’s Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) program for many years);
- A fragrance additive; and
- A polymer pre-curser.
EPA is also currently determining whether to conduct a risk evaluation of two additional phthalates. The 20 low priority candidate chemicals have been selected from EPA’s Safer Chemicals Ingredients List, which includes chemicals that have been evaluated and determined to meet EPA's safer choice criteria.
Alexandra Dapolito Dunn, Assistant Administrator for EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, stated that initiating a chemical for high or low prioritization “does not mean EPA has determined it poses unreasonable risk or no risk to human health or the environment,” however. EPA states that is it releasing this list “to provide the public an opportunity to submit relevant information such as the uses, hazards, and exposure for these chemicals.” EPA is scheduled to publish the notice regarding this list in the Federal Register on March 21, 2019. The pre-publication notice is available here. Comments will be due 90 days after publication in the Federal Register. EPA is opening a docket for each of the 40 chemicals. EPA is then directed to complete the prioritization process in the next nine to 12 months, allowing EPA to designate 20 chemicals as high priority and 20 chemicals as low priority.
Please be on the lookout for our memorandum that will contain more information regarding EPA’s list. It will be posted on our Regulatory Developments webpage.
By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
On March 18, 2019, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released new tools intended to help companies, organizations, and individuals fulfill their reporting requirements under the mercury reporting requirements rule. Those required to report under the mercury rule can now do so online through the Mercury Electronic Reporting (MER) application accessed through EPA’s Central Data Exchange (CDX). EPA states that it designed this reporting tool “to be user-friendly, with drop-down menus and lists of check-box options, to help make reporting easy and efficient.” As reported in our June 25, 2018, memorandum, “EPA Publishes Final Reporting Requirements for TSCA Mercury Inventory,” the mercury rule applies to any person who manufactures (including imports) mercury or mercury-added products, or otherwise intentionally uses mercury in a manufacturing process (including processes traditionally not subject to the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), such as for the manufacture of pharmaceuticals and pesticides). EPA will use data from the 2018 reporting year for the 2020 mercury inventory. The 2018 reporting year is from January 1, 2018, to December 31, 2018, and the submission deadline for the 2018 reporting year is July 1, 2019. Based on the information collected, EPA will identify any manufacturing processes or products that intentionally add mercury and recommend actions to achieve further reductions in mercury use. More information is available in our memorandum.
By Lynn L. Bergeson and Margaret R. Graham, M.S.
On March 15, 2019, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew Wheeler signed a final rule prohibiting the manufacture (including import), processing, and distribution in commerce of methylene chloride for consumer paint and coating removal, including distribution to and by retailers; requiring manufacturers (including importers), processors, and distributors, except for retailers, of methylene chloride for any use to provide downstream notification of these prohibitions; and requiring recordkeeping. The rule states that EPA has determined that “the use of methylene chloride in consumer paint and coating removal presents an unreasonable risk of injury to health due to acute human lethality.” This final rule does not prohibit the use of methylene chloride in commercial paint and coating removal, however. EPA is instead soliciting comment, through an advance notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPRM) also signed by Administrator Wheeler on March 15, 2019, on questions related to a potential training, certification, and limited access program as an option for risk management for all of the commercial uses of methylene chloride in paint and coating removal. More information will be available on these issuances in a forthcoming memorandum to be available on our Regulatory Developments webpage.
By Lynn L. Bergeson, Charles M. Auer, Oscar Hernandez, Ph.D., Richard E. Engler, Ph.D., and Carla N. Hutton
On March 4, 2019, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) published a report titled Chemical Assessments: Status of EPA’s Efforts to Produce Assessments and Implement the Toxic Substances Control Act. The report describes the extent to which the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) Program has addressed identified challenges and made progress toward producing chemical assessments; and assesses whether EPA has demonstrated progress implementing the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). GAO reviewed documents from the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) and EPA and interviewed EPA officials and representatives from two environmental and two industry stakeholder organizations. GAO found that while EPA made improvements in the IRIS Program, between June and December 2018, EPA leadership directed the Program to stop the assessment process during discussions about program priorities. GAO states that while EPA has responded to initial statutory deadlines in TSCA, as amended by the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act (Lautenberg Act), challenges remain. Read the full memorandum for more information on the report including why GAO did the study, GAO’s findings, and an insightful commentary.