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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 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.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Charles M. Auer

On December 21, 2016, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published a final rule regarding procedures for rulemaking under Section 6 of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) in the Federal Register.  Under TSCA Section 6, EPA has the authority to address risks from chemical substances, and Section 6 includes procedures that EPA must follow.  As amended by the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act, TSCA no longer mandates certain procedural requirements, and this rulemaking removes the regulations specifying those procedures. The final rule is effective on the date of publication, December 21, 2016.

The final rule appears to amend the Section 6 procedural requirements such that they align with the amended requirements under new TSCA.  While the procedural simplifications in new TSCA were a useful change that should better enable regulatory action on existing chemicals, EPA will need to exercise care in its future rulemaking to meet the procedural requirements that remain in Section 6, as well as satisfy the relevant provisions in Section 26.  More information regarding this final rule is available in our memorandum TSCA:  EPA Amends Procedures for TSCA Section 6 Rulemaking.