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By Lynn L. Bergeson and Margaret R. Graham

On December 18, 2018, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit (Ninth Circuit) issued an order granting in part respondent U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) motion for partial voluntary remand of certain provisions of its final rule on Procedures for Chemicals Risk Evaluation under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).  Specifically, EPA’s motion for partial voluntary remand, filed August 6, 2018, sought remand with vacatur of 40 C.F.R. Section 702.31(d) (Penalty Provision) and remand without vacatur of 40 C.F.R. Sections 702.37(b)(4) (Relevancy Provision) and 702.37(b)(6) (Consistency Provision).  The Ninth Circuit granted EPA’s motion to remand and to vacate the Penalty Provision, but referred EPA’s motion to remand without vacatur for the Relevancy and Consistency Provisions.  The Penalty Provision states that “[s]ubmission to EPA of inaccurate, incomplete, or misleading information pursuant to a risk evaluation … is a prohibited act … subject to penalties.”

EPA stated in its motion that its “request to remand the Penalty, Relevancy, and Consistency provisions is reasonable, timely, and will serve the interests of judicial economy,” but it has not yet decided on a specific course of action.  EPA sought remand to address the potential concerns that petitioners stated in their opening brief.  EPA stated that vacatur was only appropriate for the Penalty Provision, however, as “nothing in the proposed rule or rulemaking record gave any indication that EPA was contemplating extending the Penalty Provision beyond manufacturers, and EPA did not purport to make that change in response to public comments, the Penalty Provision is not a logical outgrowth of the proposed rule.” 

As for the Relevancy and Consistency Provisions, EPA stated that they should be remanded but not vacated for the following reasons:

  1. EPA believes that the concerns about these provisions can be addressed through modifications to the language of the regulations;
  2. The unintended consequences of the Relevancy and Consistency Provisions that Petitioners allege are not serious; even if a manufacturer were to rely on those provisions to withhold information, EPA has independent authority to collect that information or require development of new information as needed to conduct its risk evaluations; and
  3. The disruptive effects to EPA could be considerable if these regulations were vacated while EPA completes its remand process; if the provisions are vacated, manufacturers could (intentionally or unintentionally) submit junk science or irrelevant material, requiring EPA to consume limited resources and take time out of the statutorily-mandated schedule to review the information.  Further, vacatur of the Relevancy Provision would be particularly disruptive because it would eliminate altogether the affirmative requirement for manufacturers to submit lists of information when requesting risk evaluations; and could delay EPA’s information gathering if it had to request or order such information from the outset.

More information on the appeals to the TSCA framework rule on risk evaluation is available on our blog.


 

By Christopher R. Bryant and Lynn L. Bergeson

On December 27, 2017, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit (Ninth Circuit) ordered the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to revise its nearly 17-year-old standard for levels of lead in paint and dust within one year.  A Cmty. Voice v. EPA, No. 16-72816.  The Ninth Circuit held that “EPA was under a duty stemming from the Toxic Substances Control Act and the Residential Lead-Based Paint Hazard Reduction Act of 1992 to update lead-based paint and dust-lead hazard standards in light of the obvious need, and a duty under the Administrative Procedure Act to fully respond to petitioners’ rulemaking petition.”  The decision stems from a petition filed in June 2016 by environmental and health groups seeking this action.  The order came in the form of a writ of mandamus, an unusual court order and extraordinary judicial remedy that requires an official or agency to perform a certain duty, in this case for EPA to issue a proposed rule within 90 days of this decision and to promulgate the final rule within a year of when the proposed rule is issued.  The court stated that in doing so, it was mindful of the Agency’s arguments that officials needed more time to deliberate a complex new standard.

Commentary

While not entirely surprising given the Circuit, the decision relies on a seldom used remedy that rarely succeeds in judicial settings.  It reflects the court’s sharp rebuff of the Administration’s apparent decision to delay action on the lead standard.  Given the many challenges EPA’s Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics will face in the New Year, complying with the court’s order will not be easy.