Bergeson & Campbell, P.C. (B&C®) is a Washington, D.C. law firm providing chemical and chemical product stakeholders unparalleled experience, judgment, and excellence in matters relating to TSCA, and other global chemical management programs.

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton

On August 31, 2018, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) submitted to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for review a final rule regarding user fees for the administration of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).  As reported in our February 9, 2018, memorandum, “Administrator Pruitt Signs TSCA User Fee Proposal,” as amended by the Frank Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act, TSCA provides EPA the authority to levy fees on certain chemical manufacturers, including importers and processors, to “provide a sustainable source of funding to defray resources that are available for implementation of new responsibilities under the amended law.”  Under the amendments to TSCA, EPA has authority to require payment from manufacturers and processors who:

  • Are required to submit information by test rule, test order, or enforceable consent agreement (ECA) (TSCA Section 4);
  • Submit notification of or information related to intent to manufacture a new chemical or significant new use of a chemical (TSCA Section 5); or
  • Manufacture or process a chemical substance that is subject to a risk evaluation, including a risk evaluation conducted at the request of a manufacturer (TSCA Section 6(b)).

EPA’s February 26, 2018, proposed rule described the proposed TSCA fees and fee categories for fiscal years (FY) 2019, 2020, and 2021, and explained the methodology by which the proposed TSCA user fees were determined and would be determined for subsequent FYs.  In proposing the new TSCA user fees, EPA also proposed amending long-standing user fee regulations governing the review of Section 5 premanufacture notices (PMN), exemption applications and notices, and significant new use notices (SNUN).  Under the proposed rule, after implementation of final TSCA user fees regulations, certain manufacturers and processors would be required to pay a prescribed fee for each Section 5 notice or exemption application, Section 4 testing action, or Section 6 risk evaluation for EPA to recover certain costs associated with carrying out certain work under TSCA.  EPA did not propose specific fees for submission of confidential business information (CBI).


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On August 7, 2018, EPA is expected to announce the extension of the comment period on the problem formulations for the risk evaluations for the first 10 chemicals under Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) Section 6.  The notice extends the comment period on the problem formulations and the document titled Application of Systematic Review of TSCA Risk Evaluations, an additional 21 days, until August 16, 2018.  Reportedly EPA received several requests to extend the deadline.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson, Charles M. Auer, and Margaret R. Graham

On December 21, 2017, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California ruled that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had wrongly dismissed a Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) Section 21 petition submitted by Food & Water Watch, Inc. and other citizens seeking the regulation of fluoridation of drinking water supplies under TSCA Section 6(a) on grounds that the ingestion of fluoride poses an unreasonable risk to humans.  Food & Water Watch, Inc. v. EPA, Case No. 17-cv-02162-EMC (N.D. Cal.) (Food & Water Watch).  In 2017, EPA denied the Section 21 petition on the grounds that it failed to address conditions of use other than the fluoridation of drinking water.  82 Fed. Reg. 11878 (Feb. 27, 2017). 

In a fairly scathing rebuke of EPA’s legal positions, the court denied EPA’s motion to dismiss the petitioner’s judicial challenge of EPA’s administrative denial of the Section 21 petition and, in so doing, essentially rejected EPA’s interpretation that a citizen petition must evaluate all conditions of use of a chemical substance in a TSCA Section 6(b) risk evaluation.  While we are hesitant to note that “we told you so” in our March 7, 2017, blog item, the analysis noted there was spot on.

At issue in Food & Water Watch is EPA’s legal position that TSCA Section 6 requires that EPA consider all conditions of use in proceedings under that provision.  The court rejected this view noting that the “argument has no basis in the statutory text,” and there “is no good reason to believe that the term’s [conditions of use] appearance … [in Section 21] … obligates all citizen petitioners to address all conditions of use.”  The court also noted that EPA’s interpretation creates “a disparity between citizen petitions and manufacturer requests” for a Section 6(b) risk evaluation.  Under the rules, a manufacturer’s request may be limited only to those particular conditions of use of interest to the manufacturer, citing 40 C.F.R. Section 702.37(b)(4).  The court also noted EPA’s change of view on this issue between the proposed and final risk evaluation rule.  EPA initially proposed that risk evaluations must consider all conditions of use, but concluded in the final rule that EPA may focus its review on fewer than all conditions of use.

The court’s analysis is clear and well written, and goes into some detail on EPA’s legal reasoning and the problems it identified with it.

Commentary

This ruling raises interesting issues when viewed in the broader context of pending judicial challenges to EPA’s TSCA framework rules.  In those challenges, citizen advocates challenge EPA’s view, as articulated in the final framework rules, that the Agency retains discretion to assess those conditions of use it believes are most relevant for a particular chemical evaluation.  In other words, they challenge EPA’s view that fewer than all conditions of use must be considered in a risk evaluation, the very position the court in Food & Water Watch rejected for purposes of Section 21 petitions challenging EPA’s interpretation of a citizen’s legal burden under TSCA Section 6(a).  Given that the judicial challenge to the risk evaluation final rule is being heard in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, this district court decision is particularly relevant.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Margaret R. Graham

On December 6, 2017, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced it was extending the public comment period to receive information on the five persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic (PBT) chemicals that are subject to Section 6(h) of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) which requires EPA to take expedited regulatory action to address risks from certain PBT chemicals.  Comments were initially due on December 9, 2017; they are now due on January 12, 2018.  EPA states it is interested in information from the public about these chemicals, including uses, products containing these chemicals, exposed populations, and alternatives to these chemicals.  Very few comments have been filed regarding these chemicals thus far.  The chemicals and corresponding docket numbers are:

More information on the PBTs is available on our blog under keyword PBTs.

 


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Margaret R. Graham

On December 9, 2016, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) opened five dockets to collect information on five persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic (PBT) chemicals.  EPA requested information on uses, products containing these chemicals, exposed populations, and alternatives to these chemicals.  These five chemicals were selected on October 11, 2016, to receive expedited action under Section 6(h) of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), as amended by the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act, which requires EPA to take expedited regulatory action to address risks from certain PBT chemicals.  The deadline to submit comments is fast approaching:  December 9, 2017.  The five chemicals and their corresponding dockets are:

In August 2017, EPA provided background information for each of the five PBT chemicals in the form of use documents which provide a preliminary summary of available information collected by EPA on the manufacturing (including importing), processing, distribution in commerce, use, and disposal of each chemical.  Amended TSCA gives EPA three years to propose rules to reduce risks and exposures from these PBT chemicals to the extent practicable (until June 22, 2019), and EPA must issue the rules in final within 18 months of when they are proposed. 

More information on the PBTs is available on our blog under keyword PBTs.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton

As reported in our August 25, 2017, blog item, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will hold a webinar on September 7, 2017, on its process for gathering use and exposure information on five persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic (PBT) chemicals under the amended Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).  EPA will provide background on new requirements for regulating certain PBT chemicals and explain how interested parties can provide use information to EPA on these five chemicals:

  • Decabromodiphenyl ethers (DecaBDE), used as a flame retardant in textiles, plastics, wiring insulation, and building and construction materials;
  • Hexachlorobutadiene (HCBD), used as a solvent in the manufacture of rubber compounds and as hydraulic, heat transfer, or transformer fluid;
  • Pentachlorothiophenol (PCTP), used as a mercaptan (sulfur) cross-linking agent to make rubber more pliable in industrial uses;
  • Phenol, isopropylated, phosphate (3:1), used as a flame retardant in consumer products and as lubricant, hydraulic fluid, and other industrial uses; and
  • 2,4,6-Tris(tert-butyl) phenol, an antioxidant that can be used as a fuel, oil, gasoline, or lubricant additive.

Due to significant interest in the webinar, EPA is requesting information from participants who would like to offer public input following the EPA presentation, in an effort to accommodate as many commenters as possible.  If you would like to speak following the presentation, please send an e-mail to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) by Tuesday, September 5, 2017, that includes the following information:

  • Your name;
  • The organization you represent; and
  • The PBT chemical on which you will speak.

EPA has established public dockets for each of the chemicals to facilitate receipt of information on exposure and use that may be useful to EPA’s rulemaking effort.  EPA requests that any information be submitted to the dockets by December 9, 2017, so that the information can inform any regulatory action.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will hold a September 7, 2017, webinar to explain its process for gathering use and exposure information on five persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic (PBT) chemicals under the amended Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).  EPA states that the webinar will provide background on new requirements for regulating certain PBT chemicals and explain how interested parties can provide use information to EPA on these five chemicals:

  • Decabromodiphenyl ethers (DecaBDE), used as a flame retardant in textiles, plastics, wiring insulation, and building and construction materials;
  • Hexachlorobutadiene (HCBD), used as a solvent in the manufacture of rubber compounds and as hydraulic, heat transfer, or transformer fluid;
  • Pentachlorothiophenol (PCTP), used as a mercaptan (sulfur) cross-linking agent to make rubber more pliable in industrial uses;
  • Phenol, isopropylated, phosphate (3:1), used as a flame retardant in consumer products and as lubricant, hydraulic fluid, and other industrial uses; and
  • 2,4,6-Tris(tert-butyl) phenol, an antioxidant that can be used as a fuel, oil, gasoline, or lubricant additive.

Under TSCA Section 6(h), EPA is required to take expedited regulatory action to address risks and exposures from certain PBT chemicals.  By June 22, 2019, EPA must propose rules for the above five PBT chemicals that have been identified under TSCA Section 6(h)(1).  EPA is currently identifying where these chemicals are used and how people are exposed to them.  Following EPA’s presentation, participants will have an opportunity to provide their comments on uses of these five chemicals.


 

By Charles M. Auer, James V. Aidala, and Lynn L. Bergeson

On February 27, 2017, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced in a Federal Register notice that it was denying a Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) Section 21 petition that requested regulatory action under Section 6 to “prohibit the purposeful addition of fluoridation chemicals to U.S. water supplies,” and that it was making available its response to the petition.  82 Fed. Reg. 11878.  The petition was received by EPA on November 23, 2016, and EPA had 90 days in which to respond by either granting or denying the requested action. 

  • EPA’s response was relatively comprehensive as it went through and provided its views on numerous aspects and issues at play including: 
  • EPA’s interpretation of the Section 6 provisions regarding conditions of use which asserts that TSCA requires EPA to comprehensively consider and address all conditions of use for a chemical or category of chemicals when considering and taking action under Section 6(a).  This point was first made in EPA’s proposed procedural rule for risk evaluations (82 Fed. Reg. 7562, Jan. 19, 2017) that is currently open for comment.
  • EPA’s belief that Congress, under the new law, did not intend to empower Section 21 petitioners for regulation under Section 6 to promote chemicals of particular concern and force expeditious action based on risks arising from individual uses of those chemicals (helpfully, in its response, EPA suggests use of a petition under the Administrative Procedure Act to the petitioners for such cases).
  • The scientific adequacy of the petitioners’ risks claims for the general public from exposure to fluoridation chemicals in drinking water.  EPA identified and discussed in some depth the numerous weaknesses it saw in health, exposure, and risk aspects.
  • The petitioners’ inadequate consideration of the public health benefits of fluoridation of drinking water.
  • Inadequate support by the petitioners for their belief that action was needed under TSCA rather than under the Safe Drinking Water Act, because of the latter’s purported limitations.

While comment could be offered on many of the points discussed in the decision, we limit our reactions to a few key points.  The first is that, given all of the work that is at play under new TSCA, we are frankly surprised that EPA saw the need for such a detailed and comprehensive response to the petitioners.  From our perspective, a much shorter and more focused response would have provided an adequate basis for the denial decision. 

The second is the way that EPA used its response as a platform to advocate for its interpretation that Section 6 requires that EPA consider all conditions of use in proceeding under that Section.  While this point was made in its proposed procedural rule for conducting risk evaluations, that rule was, as indicated, only a proposal and, moreover, it was issued under the prior Administration.  This decision, however, because it can be legally challenged by the petitioners, equates to a judicially reviewable act as the petitioners may commence a civil action in federal district court to compel EPA to initiate a rulemaking as requested in the petition.  Interesting, too, is the fact that the decision was issued under the new Trump Administration.  Given that the response was signed less than a month after the Inauguration, we do not want to over-interpret its significance (perhaps EPA was merely “reiterating” rather than “advocating” its position of record).  We also note in passing that it was signed on the same day that the new Administrator was sworn in (February 17).

Commentary

EPA’s response in this case is expansive and detailed, not only with respect to what EPA concluded the claimed risks of fluoride to be, but also regarding the considerable detail on what the agency apparently has concluded are required elements to qualify as sufficient to grant a Section 21 petition for TSCA Section 6(a) action in the future.  The granularity of the discussion is extraordinary.

That EPA disagreed over the possible risks of fluoride is not the most interesting part of the notice.  EPA’s response includes what in essence is the following argument about what is required to make a Section 21 argument that EPA can grant:  the petition must include a complete risk evaluation, including an analysis of all conditions of use, showing how the TSCA risk standard is exceeded, before EPA would grant the petition. 

EPA explicitly states, for example, that if a petition showed that a chemical use clearly exceeds the TSCA risk standard, and did not include all the conditions of use, EPA would still deny the petition to initiate action to control the risk.  The notice states (at 11880):

  • EPA recognizes that information on a single condition of use, could, in certain instances, suffice to demonstrate that a chemical substance, as a whole, presents an unreasonable risk.  Nonetheless, EPA concludes that such information does not fulfill a petitioner’s burden to justify “a rule under [TSCA Section 6],” under TSCA Section 21, since the information would merely justify a subset of an adequate rule.”

So even if a chemical use is shown to cause great harm, it would not merit EPA granting the petition since it is not a complete risk evaluation as EPA wishes to define it.  The notice explains EPA’s rationale for this position, essentially arguing that since EPA must assess “all conditions of use” in any control rule they might promulgate, then any outside petition must include all of the same homework before it can be granted.

This seems to obviate the very purpose of Section 21 petitions for Section 6 action, which in the past has been viewed as one way for the public to identify risks of concern to EPA which, for whatever reason, may not be on EPA’s radar.  This asserted view, that only a comprehensive risk evaluation considering all conditions of use will suffice, presents a very high threshold for action -- and seemingly an impossibly high threshold to move EPA to act.

The petitioners in this case may decide to challenge the EPA decision.  Activists concerned about the possible risks of fluoride have in the past been persistent and dogged about their cause.  In this decision, however, there is potentially more than a disagreement over possible risks of fluoride; there might also be arguments over what is or is not sufficient for Section 21 petitions to be granted, or possibly about EPA’s general interpretation, as elaborated in the denial notice and in the risk evaluation procedural rule, that new TSCA does not provide discretion for EPA to evaluate less than all conditions of use in new actions under Section 6.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Margaret R. Graham

On January 19, 2017, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a Federal Register notice announcing it will be holding a public meeting to receive public input and information on uses and conditions of use for the initial ten chemicals to be evaluated under Section 6(b)(2)(A) of the amended Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) on February 14, 2017, from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. (EST), at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center, Polaris Room, 1300 Pennsylvania Avenue Northwest, Washington, DC 20004.  82 Fed. Reg. 6545.  EPA states that the information it gathers on uses and the conditions of use will assist it in identifying potential exposure scenarios for the ten chemicals.

Registration is available online and remote access will be available for registered participants.  Public dockets for each chemical have been established. Written comments and materials will also be accepted in these dockets on www.regulations.gov.  EPA requests for them to be submitted by March 1, 2017.

Additional information, including links to the public dockets, is available on EPA’s website and in our blog item EPA Announces Initial List of TSCA Section 6 Chemicals for Risk Evaluation.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson, Charles M. Auer, and Margaret R. Graham

On January 11, 2017, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced it would be issuing a rule proposing to prohibit the manufacture (including import), processing, and distribution in commerce of trichloroethylene (TCE) for use in vapor degreasing; to prohibit commercial use of TCE in vapor degreasing; to require manufacturers, processors, and distributors, except for retailers of TCE for any use, to provide downstream notification of these prohibitions throughout the supply chain; and to require limited recordkeeping.  EPA is proposing under Section 6 of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) to prohibit these uses due to its determination that there are “significant health risks associated with TCE use in vapor degreasing,” and they present “an unreasonable risk to human health.”  The pre-publication of the proposed rule is available on EPA’s website.  Once it has been published in the Federal Register, comments must be submitted within 60 days of publication. More information on the final rule is available in our memorandum on our website under the key phrase TSCA.


 
 1 2 >