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 Margaret R. Graham, M.S.
On May 9, 2019, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced it will hold the first meeting of the Science Advisory Committee on Chemicals (SACC) under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), for Pigment Violet 29 (PV29), the first chemical of the initial ten chemicals undergoing review, on June 18-21, 2019, from 9:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. (EDT) at the Holiday Inn Rosslyn at Key Bridge, Rosslyn Ballroom, 1900 North Fort Myer Drive, Arlington, Virginia. 84 Fed. Reg. 20354. The meeting may also be available via webcast.
EPA states that the purpose of the SACC meeting is for EPA “to get the independent review of the science underlying the PV29 risk assessment, including the hazard assessment, assessment of dose-response, exposure assessment, and risk characterization.” Additionally, this meeting will include an orientation on TSCA and how EPA is evaluating chemicals in commerce as prescribed in amended TSCA. EPA states that it will use the scientific advice, information, and recommendations from the SACC, as well as public comments, to inform the final risk evaluation. Comments are still being collected on the PV29 risk assessment until May 17, 2019, in Docket No. EPA-HQ-OPPT-2018-0604 on www.regulations.gov.
More information about the June SACC meeting and peer review of PV29 is available on EPA’s website.
By Lynn L. Bergeson and Margaret R. Graham, M.S.
On April 17, 2019, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the availability of updated systematic review supplemental files with data evaluation scoring sheets as supporting documents for the draft risk evaluation for Colour Index (C. I.) Pigment Violet 29 (PV29) under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). 84 Fed. Reg. 16011. EPA states it is “seeking public comment on the draft risk evaluation for PV29 in light of the additional materials already made or being made publicly available.” In her April 16, 2019, blog item, Alexandra Dapolito Dunn, Assistant Administrator, EPA Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, described the updated systematic review documents for PV29 as “a tool that guides our review and selection of scientific studies used to evaluate chemicals,” and that the updates were made “based on public input we received during the initial comment period.”
On March 22, 2019, EPA made 24 full study reports on PV29 available to the public, in some instances with information withheld as confidential business information (CBI) pursuant to EPA regulations. EPA has considered these materials in the risk evaluation process of PV29 and has also submitted these materials to the TSCA Science Advisory Committee on Chemicals (SACC). EPA states that comments submitted will be considered by the agency and also provided to the TSCA SACC peer review panel, which will have the opportunity to consider the comments during its discussions.
The comment period for the draft risk evaluation of CI PV29 closed on January 14, 2019, but via this notice is being extended. The Federal Register notice announcing the availability of the updated systematic review supplemental files lists a comment deadline of the same date as the notice -- April 17, 2019, but Docket ID EPA-HQ-OPPT-2018-0604-0038, however, lists a comment deadline of May 17, 2019; it is most likely that the docket is correct in this instance especially considering that follows what was stated by Ms. Dunn in her blog item that in light of the new and updated information EPA has recently released, "we will be reopening the public comment on the draft risk evaluation for PV29. It is important that the public have the opportunity to provide input on all of the information EPA is considering before our risk evaluation is finalized, so we invite you to provide us with your feedback. The public comment period will reopen for 30 days following publication in the Federal Register.”
By Lynn L. Bergeson and Margaret R. Graham, M.S.
On March 22, 2019, the U.S. Environment Protection Agency (EPA) issued a memorandum stating that it was releasing 24 studies in the Colour Index (C.I.) Pigment Violet (PV) 29 docket (Docket No. EPA-HQ-OPPT-2018-0604) that were reviewed by EPA to develop its Draft Risk Evaluation for C.I. PV 29. EPA states that these studies are being made available to the public prior to the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) Science Advisory Committee on Chemicals (SACC) expert panel peer review of the draft risk evaluation. That entirety of the reports was originally erroneously claimed to be confidential business information (CBI), therefore, the reports were not included in the public docket previously. Fifteen of the study reports have been released without any redactions while nine reports were partially redacted. EPA provides a full list of the studies and their confidential status in the memorandum. The 24 study reports represent the following disciplines: #1-17 Human Health; #18-20 Environmental Hazard; #21-22 Environmental Fate, and #23-24 Physical Chemical properties. Twenty of the 29 studies made available in the dockets were summarized in the European Chemicals Agency’s (ECHA) registration dossier for C.I. PV 29; EPA refers to them as “robust summaries” and states that it has compared the information contained in the robust summaries against the information contained in the study reports for accuracy. They were posted to the docket in November 2018.
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, Richard E. Engler, Ph.D., and Margaret R. Graham
On January 31, 2019, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was petitioned by the Attorneys General of 14 states (Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington) and the District of Columbia under Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) Section 21(a) to issue an asbestos reporting rule to require reporting under TSCA Section 8(a) of information necessary for EPA to administer TSCA as to the manufacture (including importation), processing, distribution in commerce, use, and disposal of asbestos. Specifically, the petition states that the Attorneys General are petitioning EPA’s Administrator to:
- [I]nitiate a rulemaking and issue a new asbestos reporting rule to: (i) eliminate any applicability of the “naturally occurring substance” (NOCS) exemption in the [Chemical Data Reporting (CDR)] for asbestos reporting; (ii) apply the CDR reporting requirements to processors of asbestos, as well as manufacturers, including importers, of the chemical substance; (iii) ensure that the impurities exemption in the CDR does not apply to asbestos; and (iv) require reporting with respect to imported articles that contain asbestos.
In support of their requests in the petition, the Attorneys General state the following:
- NOCS Exemption: “The identified uses of imported raw asbestos represent pathways of exposure that present risks to health and the environment that EPA must consider in conducting its risk evaluation and regulating asbestos, and accordingly EPA should promulgate an asbestos reporting rule to require reporting of such information. Moreover, the required asbestos reporting must capture information with respect to the quantities imported, and these potential exposure pathways so this information can be made available to inform the states’ and the public’s knowledge regarding asbestos exposure risks.”
- Reporting from Processors: “[T]o enable EPA to carry out its responsibility to impose requirements on processors to eliminate unreasonable risks of injury to health or the environment arising from exposures to asbestos, EPA must promulgate new regulations to apply the reporting requirements of the CDR to processors of asbestos notwithstanding that the current CDR does not expressly require such reporting. Should EPA fail to do so, EPA would be violating TSCA, acting arbitrarily and capriciously, and abusing its discretion in implementing TSCA.”
- Exemptions for “Impurities” and “Articles”: “[W]hile the CDR exempts reporting with respect to ‘impurities’ and for chemical substances imported as ‘part of an article,’ neither of these exceptions should be applied to reporting with respect to the presence of asbestos if EPA is to satisfy TSCA’s mandate to prevent unreasonable risks associated with exposures to this highly toxic chemical.”
- Reporting for Asbestos: “EPA must account for the many tons of asbestos that are imported into the U.S., whether as a raw material or processed, to evaluate adequately the current and likely future risks of exposure to asbestos, and must also account for asbestos in consumer products, whether or not the asbestos is intentionally included in those products. These data … are needed for EPA to be able to make informed technically complex decisions regarding the regulation of asbestos. Without these data to rely on, the agency will be unable to meet its obligations under TSCA to make its decisions based on the weight of the scientific evidence and using the best available science …. Accordingly, EPA must issue an asbestos reporting rule to ensure that the NOCS, the impurities, and the articles exemptions do not apply to asbestos, and that processors of asbestos are required to report.”
The petition cites EPA’s denial of a petition submitted by a group of non-governmental organizations (NGO) seeking similar action that the Attorneys General are requesting, but does not address the many reasons that EPA denied the first petition. Why the Attorneys General would follow up EPA’s well-reasoned denial with a petition of their own with very similar requests and only marginal additional facts, is unclear. More information on the NGO petition is available in our blog item "EPA Denies Section 21 Petition Seeking Increased Asbestos Reporting."
By Lynn L. Bergeson, Charles M. Auer, and Margaret R. Graham
On January 14, 2019, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Vermont, the Vermont Public Interest Group; Safer Chemicals, Health Families; and two individuals (plaintiffs) followed up on their earlier notice of intent to sue and filed a complaint against Andrew Wheeler and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to compel EPA to perform its “mandatory duty” to “address the serious and imminent threat to human health presented by paint removal products containing methylene chloride.” Plaintiffs bring the action under Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) Section 20(a) which states that “any person may commence a civil action … against the Administrator to compel the Administrator to perform any act or duty under this Act which is not discretionary.” Plaintiffs allege that EPA has not performed its mandatory duty under TSCA Sections 6(a) and 7. TSCA Section 6(a) gives EPA the authority to regulate substances that present “an unreasonable risk of injury to health or the environment” and TSCA Section 7 gives EPA the authority to commence civil actions for seizure and/or relief of “imminent hazards.” Plaintiffs’ argument to direct EPA to ban methylene chloride is centered on the issue of risk to human health only, however, stating that it presents “an unreasonable risk to human health” as confirmed by EPA. Under TSCA Section 20(b)(2), plaintiffs are required to submit a notice of intent to sue 60 days prior to filing a complaint which they did on October 31, 2018.
On January 19, 2017, EPA issued a proposed rule under TSCA Section 6 to prohibit the manufacture (including import), processing, and distribution in commerce of methylene chloride for consumer and most types of commercial paint and coating removal (82 Fed. Reg. 7464). EPA also proposed to prohibit the use of methylene chloride in these commercial uses; to require manufacturers (including importers), processors, and distributors, except for retailers, of methylene chloride for any use to provide downstream notification of these prohibitions throughout the supply chain; and to require recordkeeping. EPA relied on a risk assessment of methylene chloride published in 2014, the scope of which EPA stated included “consumer and commercial paint and coating removal.” The proposed rule stated that in the risk assessment, EPA identified risks from inhalation exposure including “neurological effects such as cognitive impairment, sensory impairment, dizziness, incapacitation, and loss of consciousness (leading to risks of falls, concussion, and other injuries)” and, based on EPA’s analysis of worker and consumer populations' exposures to methylene chloride in paint and coating removal, EPA proposed “a determination that methylene chloride and NMP in paint and coating removal present an unreasonable risk to human health.” The comment period on the proposed rule was extended several times, ending in May 2017, and in September 2017 EPA held a workshop to help inform EPA’s understanding of methylene chloride use in furniture refinishing.
No further action was taken to issue the rule in final, however, until December 21, 2018, when EPA sent the final rule to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for review. On the same day, EPA also sent another rule to OMB for review titled “Methylene Chloride; Commercial Paint and Coating Removal Training, Certification and Limited Access Program,” which has not previously been included in EPA’s Regulatory Agenda; very little is known about this rule. Plaintiffs do not refer to it in the complaint but there is speculation, based on its title, that this second rule may allow for some commercial uses of methylene chloride.
We recall the lawsuit filed by the Natural Resources Defense Counsel (NRDC) in 2018 challenging EPA’s draft New Chemicals Decision-Making Framework document as a final rule. The current action further reflects the commitment of detractors of EPA to use the courts and every other means available to oppose the Administration’s TSCA implementation efforts. Whether and when this court will respond is unclear. What is clear is that the case will be closely watched, as the outcome will be an important signal to the TSCA stakeholder community regarding the utility of TSCA Section 20(a)(2) to force non-discretionary EPA actions that the Administration may be disinclined to take.
By Lynn L. Bergeson and Margaret R. Graham
On December 31, 2018, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), even though they had already shut down due to funding issues, announced that if the government shutdown continues through 5:00 p.m. (EST) January 4, 2019, the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) Science Advisory Committee on Chemicals’ (SACC) January 8, 2019, Preparatory Virtual Meeting for the January 29 through February 1, 2019, meeting on Colour Index (C.I.) Pigment Violet 29 will be cancelled, and discussion of charge questions will be folded into the face-to-face meeting scheduled for January 29 through February 1, 2019. Further, if the shutdown continues through 5:00 p.m. (EST) January 11, 2019, the TSCA SACC’s January 29 through February 1, 2019, Peer Review of the draft risk evaluation for C.I. Pigment Violet 29 will be postponed. More information on the draft risk evaluation of C.I. Pigment Violet 29 is available in our memorandum EPA Publishes First Draft TSCA Chemical Risk Evaluation.