By Lynn L. Bergeson and Margaret R. Graham
On April 26, 2018, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt was grilled by Members of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce, Subcommittee on Environment at a hearing titled The Fiscal Year 2019 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Budget. The budget was plainly not the primary topic as the House Committee Members covered a lot of ground. Pruitt fielded many questions and comments from House Democrats on his alleged ethical lapses regarding spending, security details, retaliation towards EPA employees who reportedly questioned his practices, and concerns about a hostile work environment. Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle expressed concern over the installation of a secure phone booth in his office. His opening statement addressed these criticisms only vaguely, stating that they are merely a distraction and an attempt to “attack and derail the President’s agenda and these administration’s priorities.” There were also questions concerning the delay of the proposed rule banning the use of methylene chloride, and criticism regarding EPA’s recent proposed rule to strengthen transparency in regulatory science (the “secret” Science Rule).
No attempt is made here to summarize the lengthy hearing.
Pruitt’s testimony statement is available here. It does not contain information on the Science Rule, but it briefly references the implementation of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) in a section entitled “Ensuring the Safety of Chemicals in Commerce.”
More information on the many TSCA implementation initiatives is available on our TSCA Reform News & Information webpage, as well as the TSCAblogTM. A summary of Pruitt’s testimony before the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works is available in our blog item “Pruitt Addresses Legacy Issues, TSCA Implementation in Oversight Hearing.”
By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
On March 22, 2018, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt appointed 11 additional members to the Science Advisory Committee on Chemicals. Under the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act, the purpose of the Committee is to provide independent advice and expert consultation, at the request of the EPA Administrator, with respect to the scientific and technical aspects of risk assessments, methodologies, and pollution prevention measures or approaches supporting implementation of the Act. According to EPA, these additional members “will increase the balance of scientific perspectives and add experts with experience in labor, public interest, animal protection and chemical manufacturing and processing to the committee.” The additional 11 members -- three from non-governmental organizations (NGO), four from industry, and four from academia or governmental organizations -- will supplement the 18 expert members that were appointed on January 19, 2017. The Committee will meet three to four times a year for two years, and its charter can be extended. EPA has not yet scheduled the Committee’s first meeting.
Two of the members have reportedly declined the appointment. Dr. Michael Wilson, National Director for Occupational and Environmental Health at the BlueGreen Alliance, “notified EPA that he was unable to accept the appointment,” according to a spokesperson for the BlueGreen Alliance. Dr. Jennifer McPartland, Senior Scientist at the Environmental Defense Fund, has also declined the appointment. Ruthann Rudel, Director of Research at the Silent Spring Institute, stated that she is “collecting some advice and information” and has not decided whether to accept the appointment.
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, Charles M. Auer, Kathleen M. Roberts, and Margaret R. Graham
On December 15, 2016, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published a notice in the Federal Register of its intention to establish a Negotiated Rulemaking Committee (NRC) under the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA) and the Negotiated Rulemaking Act. 81 Fed. Reg. 90843. The NRC will implement the amended Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) Section 8(a)(6) requirement that EPA “enter into a negotiated rulemaking … to develop and publish, not later than 3 years after the date of enactment … a proposed rule providing for limiting the reporting requirements under this subsection for manufacturers of any inorganic byproducts, if the byproducts, whether by the byproduct manufacturer or by any other person, are subsequently recycled, reused, or reprocessed.”
In a webinar presented by Bergeson & Campbell, P.C. (B&C®) earlier this fall, we noted the significance of this rulemaking for many entities subject to reporting requirements under TSCA’s Chemical Data Reporting (CDR) provisions under Section 8(a). A “byproduct” is defined as a chemical substance produced without a separate commercial intent during the manufacture, processing, use, or disposal of another chemical substance or mixture. EPA is of the view that byproducts without a separate commercial value are nonetheless produced for the purpose of obtaining commercial advantage since they are part of the manufacture of a chemical substance produced for commercial purpose. Accordingly, byproducts are considered manufactured substances under TSCA and must be listed on the TSCA Inventory and, therefore, reportable under the CDR -- unless they are exempt. Byproducts are exempt from Inventory listing and CDR reporting if their only commercial purpose is use by public or private organizations that burn it as a fuel, dispose of it as a waste, or extract component chemical substances from it for commercial purposes.
EPA has interpreted “extract component chemical substances from it” narrowly and has determined the exemption is voided if an extraction process involves a chemical reaction. Stakeholders have long asserted that this interpretation discourages recycling programs that necessarily involve a chemical reaction, processes that are frequently used to extract commercially valuable metals or other materials from byproducts that would otherwise be destined for disposal. The speed with which EPA has moved to implement this provision reflects EPA’s interest in ensuring this regulatory disconnect is addressed before the next CDR reporting cycle in 2020.
The notice states that the main purpose of the NRC is to conduct discussions in a good faith attempt to reach consensus on proposed regulatory language. The notice provides a clear and comprehensive discussion of the negotiated rulemaking process and procedures, initially identifies specific parties that may be interested in participation, and requests comment on the extent to which the approaches described in the notice are adequate and appropriate. The notice should be carefully reviewed by any entity having an interest in this issue. Comments are due by January 17, 2017.
We note in addition that the notice specifically discusses the Section 8(a) CDR rule as being relevant to the negotiation. While we agree that the CDR is clearly of interest, we note that the negotiation as structured applies to any rule under Section 8(a), such as the Preliminary Assessment Information Rule (PAIR) (40 C.F.R. Part 712) and any chemical-specific Section 8(a) rules (40 C.F.R. Part 711). At the same time, the negotiation as described in new TSCA is limited to Section 8(a) and does not address the issues of Inventory listing and potentially associated Section 5 notification requirements for inorganic byproducts. We note also that as a FACA Committee, the NRC can consider and, by consensus, determine its interest in also picking up these closely related issues for discussion and attempt to develop a consensus approach.