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, 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, 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.
By Lynn L. Bergeson, Richard E. Engler, Ph.D., and Margaret R. Graham, M.S.
On February 20, 2019, during a cold, snow-filled winter day, the rugged staff of Bergeson & Campbell, P.C. (B&C®) as well as several hearty senior U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) officials got together over some steaming cups of coffee and discussed the upcoming fate of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) during a Bloomberg-hosted, B&C-developed webinar: Chemical Policy Summit Series Part V: Chemical Regulation After the Mid-Terms: What We Can Expect to See in 2019.
In attendance were: The Honorable Alexandra Dapolito Dunn, the newly appointed Assistant Administrator of EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention (OCSPP); Jeffery T. Morris, Ph.D., Director, Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics (OPPT); Rick P. Keigwin, Jr., Director of the Office of Pesticide Programs (OPP); Beau Greenwood, Executive Vice President, Government Affairs, CropLife America; Lynn L. Bergeson, Managing Partner of B&C; and James V. Aidala, Senior Government Affairs Consultant, B&C. Ms. Dunn, Dr. Morris, and Mr. Keigwin described their priorities in the webinar. Ms. Dunn stated 2019 “is going to be one of those buckle-your-seat-belt kind of years” in relation to getting everything done as required under TSCA. Some of the takeaways from that webinar are listed below.
TSCA Milestones: 2019 and Beyond
- EPA must complete the first ten risk evaluations by December 2019, with a possible extension up to June 2020; EPA may need to take advantage of the extension;
- By April 2019, EPA will need to release the “20 high- and 20 low-” priority candidate chemicals;
- EPA released its first draft chemical risk evaluation -- Colour Index (C.I.) Pigment Violet 29 -- on which many comments were submitted. EPA realized that this selection was challenging given certain data ownership issues and restrictions on those data occasioned by European Union’s (EU) Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) regulation issues; therefore, this initial evaluation was not the best representation of how the other evaluations will be conducted (more information on the risk evaluation is available in our memo EPA Publishes First Draft TSCA Chemical Risk Evaluation);
- EPA is using a new risk assessment program process called “Systematic Review” that has been used in non-risk assessment fields; EPA is the first agency to use this process. EPA welcomes input on the process and stated that the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) will be reviewing this process as well;
- In March 2019, EPA will release a proposed rule outlining how it will review and substantiate all Confidential Business Information (CBI) claims seeking to protect the specific chemical identities of substances on the confidential portion of the TSCA Inventory; and
- EPA will be proposing its rule to regulate five persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic chemicals by June 2019; EPA will be using a different approach than what is typically used for risk assessments.
Approving New Chemicals:
- EPA intends to explore its process for new chemical review to be more predictable and to make reviews final within 90 days;
- EPA will post “frequently asked questions” documents to help chemical manufacturers submit clearer applications online;
- EPA is urging pre-submission meetings between premanufacture notice (PMN) submitters and EPA staff prior to submitting a PMN for a new product to reduce agency time spent clarifying omissions; and
- EPA has pledged to make all PMNs, all health and safety studies, attachments, amendments and other associated information available in public dockets.
B&C’s other upcoming seminars and webinars are available here. Some other resources of interest are B&C’s newly minted TSCA Tutor™ Modular Training Program which provides live in-person training at a company’s site, live online training, and pre-recorded webinar training modules -- all designed to offer expert, efficient, and essential TSCA training; as well as B&C’s All Things Chemical™ Podcasts, which provide intelligent, insightful conversation about everything related to industrial, pesticidal, and specialty chemicals and the law and business issues surrounding chemicals.
By Lynn L. Bergeson and Margaret R. Graham
On October 5, 2018, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued the general approaches that the Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics (OPPT) may use to identify potential candidate chemicals for prioritization under TSCA. 83 Fed. Reg. 50366. EPA notes that it will seek public comment on the approach document and on which chemicals should be identified as potential candidates for the initial 20 high-priority and 20 low-priority chemicals that must be identified pursuant to TSCA Section 6(b)(2)(B). Comments are due by November 15, 2018.
The document, A Working Approach for Identifying Potential Candidate Chemicals for Prioritization, lays out EPA’s thinking regarding a near-term approach for identifying potential chemicals for prioritization, the initial step in evaluating the safety of existing chemicals under TSCA. The approach document also includes a longer-term risk-based strategy for managing the larger TSCA chemical landscape that, according to the portion of the TSCA Chemical Substance Inventory (Inventory) that includes the substances designated as active (TSCA Active Inventory), is expected to include over 38,000 chemicals reported as “active” under the TSCA Inventory Notification (Active-Inactive) Requirements final rule. More information is available in our memorandum “EPA Releases Working Approach for Identifying Potential Candidate Chemicals for Prioritization under TSCA.”
By Lynn L. Bergeson and Margaret R. Graham
On September 28, 2018, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced it was releasing the approach it will use to identify chemicals that could be included in the next group of risk evaluations under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) titled “A Working Approach for Identifying Potential Candidate Chemicals for Prioritization” (Working Approach). EPA states that the information set forth in this document is “intended to describe the general approaches EPA may consider to identify existing chemicals as potential candidates for prioritization,” and the ultimate goal of these approaches “is to identify potential candidates from which EPA will select candidates for prioritization, consistent with its regulations at 40 C.F.R. § 702.5.”
EPA also released the pre-publication version of the Federal Register notice of availability of the Working Approach and “A Summary of Public Comments By Topic” (Summary). The pre-publication notice states that EPA will be opening a public docket to accept comments on the Working Approach until November 15, 2018. These comments will inform a public meeting to be held in early 2019. Upon publication of the Federal Register notice, EPA will open 74 chemical-specific public dockets, one for each of the 73 remaining chemicals on the 2014 Update to the TSCA Work Plan for Chemical Assessments that have not received manufacturer requests for EPA evaluation and an additional general docket for chemicals not on the Work Plan. These dockets will be open until December 1, 2019. A link to the list of these dockets is available here.
More information on TSCA implementation is available on our website under key phrase Lautenberg Implementation.
By Lynn L. Bergeson, Susan M. Kirsch, and Margaret R. Graham
On January 30, 2018, the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW) convened an Oversight Hearing to Receive Testimony from U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt. In a written statement submitted in advance of the hearing, Pruitt described implementation of the new Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act, or the “new” Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), as being of “significant importance” and a “top priority for ensuring the safety of chemicals in the marketplace.” In opening remarks, Senator Tom Carper (Ranking Member of the EPW Committee) (D-DE)) challenged Pruitt’s record on implementing TSCA reform, stating that EPA has not truly used the authority bestowed on it through TSCA to declare that products being sold on the market are safe, therefore, consumers do not have the confidence that they deserve and that Congress intended in passing TSCA. Pruitt did not respond to this comment, and did not go on to address TSCA implementation in his brief opening remarks. Instead, Pruitt devoted the bulk of his opening statement to highlighting specific areas where EPA’s environmental protection goals dovetail well with opportunities for economic growth. These issues/economic opportunities included: investment in infrastructure to eradicate lead from drinking water within a decade; advancing initiatives that incentivize private companies to take on clean-up projects at abandoned mines; and remediation activities at “Superfund” sites -- hazardous waste sites regulated under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA).
Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) expressed concern that EPA’s chemical reviews under TSCA were only focusing on new “items” (chemicals) being made, but overlooking “legacy” chemicals already in the environment (e.g., asbestos). Merkley cited a report that claimed that review of the ten chemicals on the priority list were being “slow-walked.” In response, Pruitt stated “it is an absolute priority during [EPA’s] first year,” the three TSCA final rules were issued consistent with the implementation schedule in the first year, and the backlog of chemical reviews has been addressed through the addition of resources.
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) expressed her concerns regarding the toxic levels of perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) that have been found throughout New York State, stating that EPA was not using its TSCA authority to regulate these chemicals, as the implementation final rules “ignored the public’s exposure to the past uses of chemicals called legacy uses” that could still have the potential to contaminate groundwater. She also stated her concern that due to this oversight, EPA will not likely study the health risks of widespread exposure to chemicals such as PFOS/PFOS. She requested of Pruitt to revise the TSCA implementation rules to address legacy issues, so that “all uses of a chemical, including legacy uses, are studied.” Pruitt stated that as PFOA and PFOS have not been manufactured since early 2000, they are in fact legacy uses, and that EPA was “very much going to focus” on this issue. Gillibrand appeared to be content with his answer, as she did not demand a further commitment from him. In regards to the Hudson River, Gillibrand requested that data from the sediment sampling be integrated into EPA’s five year review plan regarding the effectiveness of dredging for removing polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) from the Hudson River. Pruitt stated that EPA was reviewing the samples currently and that there is more work to be done to get clarity on this issue. Gillibrand requested Pruitt to personally review the final report to ensure that all issues have been addressed and Pruitt confirmed that he would.
Near the close of the hearing, Senator Carper further stated that EPA has failed to follow through on its proposed ban of three highly toxic chemicals that Congress gave it the authority to ban when it enacted TSCA reform: specifically methylene chloride, tricholoroethylene (TCE), and methylpyrrolidone (NMP), and asked Pruitt to commit to using EPA’s authority to ban them within the next 30 days. Pruitt responded that they are on the priority list and that he will confirm this with the agency (that they are priorities, not that they will be banned in 30 days). EPA’s delay in finalizing the bans was among the failures cited in the Senate EPW Minority Staff report, released January 29, 2018, “Basically Backward: How the Trump Administration is Erasing Decades of Air, Water and Land Protections and Jeopardizing Public Health.”
Several Senators indicated their intention to submit additional questions for the record. Pruitt has until February 13, 2018, to submit written responses, which will be made available on the EPW Committee website. The full hearing is available on the EPW Committee’s website.
By Lynn L. Bergeson
Bergeson & Campbell, P.C.’s (B&C®) much anticipated and highly acclaimed annual Forecast, "Predictions and Outlook for U.S. Federal and International Chemical Regulatory Policy 2018," is now available. In the Forecast, the lawyers, scientists, and chemical regulatory specialists at B&C and its affiliated consulting firm, The Acta Group (Acta®), offer comprehensive and highly useful observations on the fast-changing and nuanced area of domestic and global chemical legal, scientific, and regulatory issues expected to be hot topics in 2018. This 38-page document is chock-full of insights, predictions, and useful information.
Happy New Year and enjoy reading our predictions!
By Kathleen M. Roberts, Richard E. Engler, Ph.D., and Lynn L. Bergeson
On December 11, 2017, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics (OPPT) convened its public meeting on possible approaches for identifying potential candidates for prioritization under the amended Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). Key presenters were Jeffery Morris, Ph.D., Directory of OPPT, as well as several other OPPT staff, Health Canada (HC) and Environmental and Climate Change Canada (ECCC), and Russell S. Thomas with EPA’s Office of Research and Development (ORD).
The presentations from the meeting are listed below and available on EPA's website:
- Identifying Potential Candidates for Prioritization: Background, Goal, Guiding Principles, and Milestones -- Dr. Morris, Director, OPPT
- Overview of TSCA Work Plan Methodology -- Maria Doa, Director, Chemical Control Division, OPPT
- Approaches to Identifying Potential Candidate Chemicals for Prioritization: The TSCA Work Plan as a Tool for Identifying Potential Candidates -- Dan Chang, OPPT
- Approaches to Identifying Potential Candidate Chemicals for Prioritization: Approaches to Prioritization and to Streamlined Assessments -- Canada’s Chemical Management Plan – HC and ECCC
- Approaches to Identifying Potential Candidate Chemicals for Prioritization: EPA’s Safer Chemical Ingredients List (SCIL) -- Clive Davies and Lauren Sweet, OPPT
- Approaches to Identifying Potential Candidate Chemicals for Prioritization: Functional Category Approach Based on Use and Exposure Potential -- Joel Wolf and Ana Corado, OPPT
- Approaches to Identifying Potential Candidate Chemicals for Prioritization: Integration of Traditional and New Approach Methods -- Russell S. Thomas, ORD
Nancy Beck, Ph.D. opened the workshop by welcoming attendees and provided some overview remarks. Dr. Beck noted that the workshop could result in more than one approach being considered, or could result in no process being adopted. Dr. Beck explained why EPA does not wish to prioritize chemicals with poor datasets. Unless EPA has sufficient information to conclude there is no unreasonable risk, EPA must proceed with risk evaluations within the specified timelines with increased uncertainties. This will result in a risk management process that has numerous default assumptions and uncertainty that will be difficult to defend. Such risk management results will likely be subject to litigation, which will be costly in terms of time and resources to both EPA and the stakeholders.
Dr. Morris stated that EPA hopes to implement a pre-prioritization approach by June 2018 to help ensure prioritization can begin in December 2018.
In its review of potential adjustments to the TSCA Work Plan for Chemical Assessments (TSCA Work Plan) approach, EPA staff clarified that there would be no changes to the current TSCA Work Plan chemical list last updated in 2014. It was suggested that EPA could rely on the current TSCA Work Plan approach as an interim method for pre-prioritization as EPA works to refine other approaches. EPA acknowledged that neither the current TSCA Work Plan approach nor the SCIL process included screens for certain criteria articulated in the amended TSCA legislation, including storage near significant sources of drinking water.
Based on comments by presenters at the workshop and references in EPA documentation, it appears that chemical substances of unknown or variable composition, complex reaction products and biological materials (UVCB) will be difficult to screen in the pre-prioritization approaches reviewed.
In response to EPA’s comment that active substances will be the starting point for pre-prioritization screening, one non-governmental organization (NGO) group raised concerns with legacy issues that might be associated with inactive substances (e.g., substances contained in products or materials that have been in use for years). NGO groups also commented that the hurdle for identifying a high priority chemical should be relatively low; whereas the hurdle for identifying a low priority chemical should be very high and could potentially include a required minimum data set.
All stakeholders expressed appreciation to EPA for the presentations and the various approaches reviewed. During the public comments, there did not appear to be specific support for any one approach.
We note that none of the approaches included specifics as to how EPA would assess whether the chemical being reviewed had sufficient data available to initiate prioritization and potential risk evaluation. Given EPA’s clear objective to avoid having data-poor chemicals being prioritized, this issue needs to be clearly and definitively addressed in EPA’s practices. Nor was there consideration as to how other governmental regulatory assessments could be incorporated into a pre-prioritization approach.
EPA will be accepting comments on the approach to prioritizing chemicals until January 25, 2018, in Docket ID EPA-HQ-OPPT-2017-0586. More information on the December 6, 2017, public meeting on EPA’s new chemicals review program is available in our blog under key phrase public meeting.