By Zameer Qureshi
Lynn L. Bergeson, Managing Partner at Bergeson & Campbell, P.C. (B&C®), presented at Chemical Watch Enforcement Summit Europe in Brussels on November 4, 2016. Topics covered by Ms. Bergeson included “A New [Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA)] and Expanded Enforcement and Product Liability Opportunities,” “Next Generation Compliance and Implications for Businesses,” and “eDisclosure -- The New Normal?”
Ms. Bergeson informed attendees of the significant amendments made to chemical regulation in the U.S. by the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act (new TSCA). She indicated that new TSCA amends TSCA in a number of ways and provided delegates with useful detail on the significant amendments made by new TSCA, stating that new TSCA:
- Resets the Chemical Inventory based on industry-supplied data;
- Requires screening assessments for all “active substances”;
- Mandates risk evaluation for all “high-priority” substances and risk management for some substances;
- Compels substantiation of confidential business information (CBI) claims; and
- Authorizes testing order authority (i.e., the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) can compel chemical testing in addition to the more traditional test rule and consent order testing procedures).
Ms. Bergeson utilized a slide entitled “New Compliance Mandates = New Enforcement Opportunities” to address EPA’s expanded authority under new TSCA (e.g., Section 4 test orders, Section 5 new chemical safety “determinations,” and Section 6 prioritization). She expressed that EPA’s expanded authority under new TSCA gives rise to significant opportunities for enforcement of allegations of non-compliance when Section 4 test orders are issued.
Regarding testing, Ms. Bergeson stated “the [U.S.] testing program has relevance for people anywhere in the world” as chemical manufacturers can be expected to be ordered to test, and manufacturers include importers. Ms. Bergeson expressed that more testing will trigger an enhanced need to consider reporting under new TSCA Section 8(e). She described the possible outcomes of new chemical safety “determinations” by EPA under Section 5 and indicated that as a consequence of new TSCA “we’re going to see lots and lots of new [Significant New Use Rules (SNUR)].” Additionally, Ms. Bergeson stated “[Chemical Data Reporting (CDR)] requirements and Section 8 requirements are much more robust now.”
Drawing on her experience and current information from EPA, Ms. Bergeson analyzed “Next Generation Compliance” and provided insights to attendees on what it means for industry. She relied on a diagram from EPA that indicates Next Generation Compliance encompasses an intersection of “Regulation and Permit Design,” “Advanced Monitoring,” “Electronic Reporting,” “Transparency,” and “Innovative Enforcement.” Ms. Bergeson stated “Next Gen Compliance is an Obama Administration initiative” and emphasized the relevance of the U.S. presidential election for the future of Next Generation Compliance by stating “Next Generation Compliance will likely grow under the Clinton Administration or may die on the vine under a Trump Administration.” She then discussed each of the individual components of Next Generation Compliance.
Regarding Regulation and Permit Design, Ms. Bergeson stated that EPA’s goals were to “make permits clearer,” promote self-monitoring and third-party reporting, make compliance easier than non-compliance, and leverage market forces and incentives.
Ms. Bergeson stated that the expansion of “Advanced Monitoring Technologies” means there are new tools that can assist industry. She described the usefulness of real-time monitoring (i.e., knowing about releases into the environment on a real-time basis), facility feedback loops, fenceline and community monitoring, and remote sensing. Ms. Bergeson noted, as a potential drawback of Advanced Monitoring, that “technologies that have not necessarily been vetted” are finding their way into enforcement consent agreements. She then indicated that while this may be fine, the reliability of such technologies for regulatory purposes is untested and reliance on such technologies in regulatory contexts should not replace more traditional notice and comment rulemaking.
Ms. Bergeson stated “Electronic Reporting is a huge part of Next Generation Compliance; the era of submitting paper [is over],” and informed delegates that “information technologies enable new solutions, but invite concerns regarding accuracy and regulatory reliability.” She stated “Electronic Reporting does not always go as intended and greatly facilitates finding non-compliance.” Ms. Bergeson referenced the relevant EPA memorandum and informed attendees that Electronic Reporting is the default mechanism for providing information under new TSCA, and stated that Ohio Discharge Monitoring Report Electronic Reporting “checks submissions overnight and sends notices” if there are problems, thereby allowing the permittee to make corrections and resubmit.
Regarding Innovative Enforcement, Ms. Bergeson expressed that EPA is using Next Generation tools in enforcement settlements, and that Innovative Enforcement enhances targeting and data analysis to identify and address the most serious violations. She stated “we really like new technologies, but if a technology is new it may not be standardized, making reliance on it necessarily more focused to enforcement and not rulemaking purposes.” Additionally, Ms. Bergeson informed delegates that there is “a little concern in the regulated community in the U.S.” that some of the new technologies evolving from Innovative Enforcement efforts could undermine the notice and comment rulemaking process if these technologies are used for purposes beyond consent orders.
Ms. Bergeson stated that EPA’s “eDisclosure” portal provides companies with a new way to self-report violations of environmental law and is intended to “streamline confessions” by the “legal and corporate community,” and described the two-tier system within EPA’s eDisclosure portal and stated that for some violations “you can get on with your life.”
Ms. Bergeson stated “we always urge [B&C] clients to fix the problem immediately … The issue arises in some contexts of ‘do we tell EPA?’” She then informed delegates of the underpinning principles of eDisclosure by stating “it is believed that self-confessing should be rewarded.” Ms. Bergeson advised that companies can seek to reduce penalties by self-confessing, but the decision to self-confess is always fact dependent, and then indicated that the future of eDisclosure could be significantly impacted by the outcome of the U.S. presidential election.
Ms. Bergeson addressed “Design and Use of Safer Chemicals” and told attendees that EPA has “tried very hard” to promote Safer Chemicals through Green Chemistry, Safer Choice Labels, and the Safer Chemical Ingredient List, and that “creative technologies that are better, cheaper, and less toxic” are actively encouraged by EPA and welcomed by the U.S. chemical regulatory community.
Ms. Bergeson expressed that the implications of new TSCA are significant for the chemical manufacturing, importing, and downstream user sectors and provided beneficial “Closing Thoughts” to attendees. She stated that chemical manufacturers, importers, and downstream users need to:
- Read and understand the law and engage in “trade associations’ implementation activities”;
- Assess chemical product inventories;
- Manage the “business and optics” of chemical assessment, management, and substitution;
- Assess CBI options; and
- Manage chemical data information carefully.
Ms. Bergeson stated that the “implications of new TSCA are paradigm shifting … In the next two to five years we’re going to see opportunities for non-compliance.” Regarding CBI, Ms. Bergeson stated “we need to be very cognizant … Some of the changes are very subtle and it is an area ripe for enforcement … Assertion of CBI is at a higher standard -- EPA will be very vigilant.” Ms. Bergeson emphasized EPA’s “much richer implementation authority” under new TSCA and informed delegates that Next Generation enforcement and eDisclosure tools “add to the pressure” on the U.S. chemical industry to monitor carefully chemical portfolios.
Ms. Bergeson answered a number of questions on new TSCA and EPA’s likely enforcement of it. In response to a delegate’s question relating to the capacity of EPA to manage enforcement of new TSCA, she stated that EPA requires greater resources and is currently recruiting. Ms. Bergeson answered questions from attendees on timelines for pending rules from EPA and highlighted EPA’s interest in expediting its rulemaking on fees. She indicated that fees will be higher under new TSCA. Ms. Bergeson responded to a question regarding the scope of new TSCA by clarifying that new TSCA relates to industrial chemicals and that the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) and the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA) will continue to maintain their previous regulatory scope. Ms. Bergeson indicated that the only exception is found under TSCA Section 8(b)(10), which requires any or all mercury or mercury compounds, or any intentional use of mercury in a manufacturing process to be reported to EPA under the mercury inventory and reporting provisions, regardless of whether the use of the mercury or mercury compound is regulated under FIFRA or FFDCA.