By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
On November 14, 2019, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit issued its decision in a case challenging the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) prioritization and risk evaluation rules. Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families v. EPA, No. 17-72260. Petitioners argued that provisions in the risk evaluation rule relating to EPA’s evaluation of the risks from a substance’s “conditions of use” violate several of the Toxic Substances Control Act’s (TSCA) requirements. Specifically, petitioners claimed that: (1) TSCA requires EPA to evaluate risks associated with a chemical’s uses collectively before determining that the chemical is safe; (2) EPA must consider all of a chemical’s conditions of use in that evaluation; and (3) when considering conditions of use, EPA must evaluate past disposals of all chemicals, as well as the use and subsequent disposal of chemicals not currently or prospectively manufactured or distributed in commerce for that use. Petitioners maintained that various provisions of the risk evaluation rule demonstrate that EPA will not do any of these three things. The court held that it lacks jurisdiction to review petitioners’ first challenge, and that their second challenge fails on the merits. The court granted in part the petition for review with respect to petitioners’ third challenge to EPA’s exclusion of “legacy uses” and “associated disposals” from the definition of “conditions of use,” and those portions of the risk evaluation rule’s preamble are vacated. The court notes that because petitioners’ challenges to EPA’s prioritization rule are “entirely encompassed” within their challenges to the risk evaluation rule, the challenges rise or fall together. The court thus focused only on the risk evaluation rule.
More information on the case is available in the following blog items:
By Carla N. Hutton, Richard E. Engler, Ph.D., and Amanda Bland
On August 13, 2019, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released the list of 20 chemical substances that it proposes to designate as low-priority substances for which risk evaluation under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) is not warranted at this time. EPA’s August 15, 2019, proposed rule provides a summary of the approach used by EPA to support the proposed designations, the proposed designations for each of the chemical substances, and instructions on how to access the chemical-specific information, analysis, and basis used by EPA to make the proposed designation for each chemical substance. 84 Fed. Reg. 41712. EPA published its Approach Document for Screening Hazard Information for Low-Priority Substances Under TSCA (Approach Document), which describes the literature review process for the information used in the screening review for each proposed low-priority chemical substance. Comments on the proposed designations and on EPA’s Approach Document are due November 13, 2019.
As expected, EPA has formally proposed as low-priority substances the 20 substances that EPA proposed in March as potential low-priority substances. Stakeholders will have 90 days to comment on whether EPA has met the statutory obligation to have information “sufficient to establish” that the substances do not meet the standard for high-priority substances (that the substances may present an unreasonable risk). Comments were filed on only seven of the 20 substances initially identified as low priority, and all comments supported the designations as low priority.
More information is available in our August 14, 2019, memorandum, “EPA Proposes to Designate 20 Chemical Substances as Low-Priority Substances.”
Bergeson & Campbell, P.C. (B&C®) is pleased to present the complimentary webinar “New TSCA at 3: Key Implementation Issues.” The webinar will drill down on key implementation challenges facing industry and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) three years into navigating the legal, regulatory, and science policy issues arising under the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act (Lautenberg Act). Alexandra Dapolito Dunn, Assistant Administrator, EPA Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention (OCSPP); Lynn L. Bergeson, Managing Partner, B&C; and Richard E. Engler, Ph.D., Director of Chemistry, B&C, will present. Register online now.
By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
On June 28, 2019, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) filed its response to the non-governmental organizations’ (NGO) supplemental brief in a case challenging EPA’s prioritization and risk evaluation rules. Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families v. EPA, No. 17-72260. According to EPA, petitioners “have plausibly alleged standing to challenge only the definitional interpretation of ‘conditions of use’ and the two provisions still subject to EPA’s motion for voluntary remand.” As to the remainder of petitioners’ claims, EPA maintains that their allegations “are based on hypotheticals and other non-final agency actions currently being considered by the agency.” EPA argues that the court should dismiss petitioners’ challenges to: (1) EPA’s preamble statements about the potential scope of future risk evaluations; (2) EPA’s regulatory provisions leaving the door open to issue early risk determinations; and (3) the remaining information-gathering provisions still at issue. EPA states that if it “ever takes final agency actions based on the decisions Petitioners hypothesize, those would be the proper actions for Petitioners’ challenges.”
A coalition of industry associations filed a supplemental brief in support of EPA on June 28, 2019. The coalition states: “Although it is theoretically possible that EPA could exclude a use of a particular chemical that could affect the risk evaluation in a way that could cause the agency not to regulate some use of a chemical that could injure Petitioners’ members, that does not create a justiciable controversy now, before the Rules have been applied.” (Emphasis in original.) The coalition asks the court to dismiss the petitions for lack of jurisdiction.
As reported in our June 26, 2019, blog item, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit heard oral arguments on May 16, 2019, and afterward ordered petitioners to file a supplemental brief addressing why they should be allowed to bring a lawsuit against EPA.
By Lynn L. Bergeson and Emily A. Scherer
As reported in our June 28, 2019, memorandum, on June 24, 2019, Bergeson & Campbell, P.C.(B&C®), the Environmental Law Institute (ELI), and the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health (GWU) presented “TSCA: Three Years Later,” a day-long conference with leading experts exploring the current impacts of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) on science policies, challenges faced by industry, and the impacts of TSCA on regulatory policies, especially those concerning ensuring compliance and enforcement. A recording of the full conference is available online. Our memorandum provides details regarding the session topics and presenters, including copies of the presentation where available.
By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
On May 16, 2019, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit heard oral arguments in a case filed by non-governmental organizations (NGO) challenging the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) prioritization and risk evaluation rules. Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families v. EPA, No. 17-72260. During oral arguments, the court asked the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) whether it had standing to be before the court. NRDC responded that it does, arguing that EPA’s rules violate the statutory requirements of the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act. The court suggested that petitioners could wait to see whether EPA will ignore certain uses of chemicals in its risk evaluations. EPA maintained that petitioners were raising a challenge to a hypothetical scenario and that EPA has the legal discretion to study whichever chemical uses it sees fit. Following oral argument, on May 16, 2019, the court ordered petitioners to file a supplemental brief addressing why they should be allowed to bring a lawsuit against EPA. The petitioners filed their supplemental brief on June 3, 2019, arguing that they have standing because the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) Framework Rules threaten their members’ concrete interests in minimizing toxic chemical exposures; they have information standing for each of their challenges to the Framework Rules; and their claims are ripe. EPA was granted an extension and its response is due June 28, 2019.
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.