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By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a press release on November 22, 2019, reminding stakeholders that its regulations to prohibit the manufacture (including import), processing, and distribution of methylene chloride in all paint removers for consumer use will go into effect after November 22, 2019.  Beginning November 23, 2019, it will be unlawful for any person or retailer to sell or distribute paint removal products containing methylene chloride for consumer use, including e-commerce sales.  EPA states that it “is encouraging all consumers to stop using methylene chloride products that they may have already purchased for paint and coating removal.”  EPA also reminds all retailers that sales of these products to consumers are prohibited by EPA regulations under the authority of Section 6 of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).  EPA promulgated the final regulation on methylene chloride for consumer paint and coating removal use on March 27, 2019, and the prohibition related to manufacturing, processing and distribution of methylene chloride for consumer paint and coating removal use is now in effect.  According to EPA, “[a] variety of effective, less harmful substitutes are readily available for paint removal.”  EPA notes that it “is continuing to work through the process outlined in TSCA to review the risks associated with other uses of methylene chloride.  This process is designed to thoroughly evaluate available science before taking action to manage the risk associated with the other uses of the chemical.”

More information on EPA’s actions concerning methylene chloride are available in the following memoranda:


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
 
On October 29, 2019, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency published a Federal Register notice announcing the availability of the draft Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) risk evaluation for methylene chloride (MC).  84 Fed. Reg. 57866.  As reported in our October 26, 2019, blog item, EPA is submitting the same document to the TSCA Science Advisory Committee on Chemicals (SACC) for peer review.  SACC will convene an in-person public meeting to consider and review the draft risk evaluation on December 3-4, 2019.  Preceding the in-person meeting, there will be a preparatory virtual public meeting on November 12, 2019, for SACC to consider the scope and clarity of the draft charge questions for the peer review.  Registration for the preparatory virtual meeting must be completed on or before November 12, 2019, to receive the webcast meeting link and audio teleconference information.  Written comments for the preparatory virtual meeting and requests for time to present oral comments are due by 12:00 p.m. on November 8, 2019.  Written comments on the draft risk evaluation that are submitted to EPA on or before November 26, 2019, will be provided to SACC for review and consideration before the December 3-4, 2019, meeting.  Requests to present oral comments at the in-person meeting are due December 3, 2019.  Comments on the draft risk evaluation are due December 30, 2019.
 
The draft risk evaluation states that EPA’s initial determinations of unreasonable risk for the specific conditions of use of MC listed below are based on health risks to workers, occupational non-users (ONU), consumers, or bystanders from consumer use.  According to the draft risk evaluation, risks to the general population either were not relevant for these conditions of use or were evaluated and not found to be unreasonable.

  • Unreasonable Risk to Workers:  EPA determined that the conditions of use that presented unreasonable risks included processing MC into a formulation or mixture; all but two industrial and commercial uses; and disposal;
     
  • Unreasonable Risks to ONUs:  For ONUs, EPA determined that the conditions of use that presented unreasonable risks included import of MC, processing MC as a reactant in several industrial sectors, some industrial and commercial uses, and disposal.  EPA determined in some cases that a condition of use presented an unreasonable risk not only to workers but also to ONUs; in other cases, EPA determined that a condition of use presented an unreasonable risk only to one or the other.
     
  • Unreasonable Risk to Consumers:  EPA determined that all but two consumer conditions of use present unreasonable risks.
     
  • Unreasonable Risk to Bystanders (from Consumer Uses):  When EPA determined that a condition of use presented risks to consumers, unreasonable risks were often, but not always, identified for bystanders.

A more detailed summary of the draft risk evaluation and commentary will be available in our forthcoming memorandum.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will publish a Federal Register notice on October 29, 2019, announcing the availability of and soliciting public comment on the draft Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) risk evaluation of methylene chloride (MC).  EPA states that it is also submitting the same document to the TSCA Science Advisory Committee on Chemicals (SACC) for peer review and that SACC will hold an in-person public meeting to consider and review the draft risk evaluation on December 3-4, 2019.  Preceding the in-person meeting, there will be a preparatory virtual public meeting on November 12, 2019, for SACC to consider the scope and clarity of the draft charge questions for the peer review.  Registration for the preparatory virtual meeting must be completed on or before November 12, 2019, to receive the webcast meeting link and audio teleconference information.  Written comments for the preparatory virtual meeting and requests for time to present oral comments are due by 12:00 p.m. on November 8, 2019.  Written comments on the draft risk evaluation that are submitted to EPA on or before November 26, 2019, will be provided to SACC for review and consideration before the December 3-4, 2019, meeting.  Requests to present oral comments at the in-person meeting are due December 3, 2019.  Publication of the Federal Register notice on October 29, 2019, will begin a 60-day comment period on the draft risk evaluation.  The draft risk evaluation is not yet publicly available and is not expected to be until the notice is published on October 29, 2019, and Docket ID EPA-HQ-OPPT-2019-0437 is created at http://www.regulations.gov.  More information is available in our October 25, 2019, memorandum, “EPA Will Publish Draft Risk Evaluation of Methylene Chloride on October 29.”


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
 
On September 4, 2019, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released new guidance intended to help methylene chloride processors and distributors comply with EPA’s March 2019 rule issued under Section 6(a) of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) prohibiting the manufacture (including import), processing, or distribution in commerce of methylene chloride for consumer paint and coating removal.  The final rule became effective on May 28, 2019.  Each person who manufactures, processes, or distributes in commerce methylene chloride for any use after August 26, 2019, must comply with the requirements for downstream notification and recordkeeping.  The guidance describes the requirements EPA established to address unreasonable risks from the use of methylene chloride in consumer paint and coating removal.  The guidance also:

  • Defines key terms;
  • Identifies the regulated entities;
  • Describes the required or prohibited activities; and
  • Summarizes the downstream notification and recordkeeping requirements.

EPA notes that the small entities directly regulated by the rule include:

  • Processors (since they formulate paint and coating removers containing methylene chloride);
  • Distributors of methylene chloride;
  • Distributors of paint and coating removers containing methylene chloride; and
  • Retailers.

EPA states that the rule is fully effective on November 22, 2019, when prohibitions on manufacturing (including importing), processing, or distributing methylene chloride for consumer paint and coating removal go into effect.  This ban includes a prohibition on distributing any methylene chloride for paint and coating removal to or by retailers, including e-commerce retailers.  More information on EPA’s final rule is available in our March 20, 2019, memorandum, “EPA Bans Consumer Sales of Methylene Chloride Paint Removers, Seeks Comment on Program for Commercial Uses.”


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Kathleen M. Roberts
 
In the March 27, 2019, Federal Register, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued its final regulatory rulemaking that prohibits the manufacture (including import), processing, and distribution of methylene chloride for consumer paint and coating removal. 84 Fed. Reg. 11420.  See Bergeson & Campbell, P.C.’s memorandum, “EPA Bans Consumer Sales of Methylene Chloride Paint Removers, Seeks Comment on Program for Commercial Uses.”
 
Starting on August 26, 2019, which is 90 days after the effective date of the final rule, a company that manufactures, processes, or distributes in commerce methylene chloride is required to provide notification to downstream users of the consumer use paint remover restrictions via Safety Data Sheets (SDS).  We write to emphasize that this notification requirement applies to all manufacturers, processors, or distributors of methylene chloride and is not limited only to those companies engaged with paint remover products.  The EPA rulemaking provides the following specific text that must be included in the SDS:

  • SDS Section 1.(c):  “This chemical/product is not and cannot be distributed in commerce (as defined in TSCA section 3(5)) or processed (as defined in TSCA section 3(13)) for consumer paint or coating removal.”
     
  • SDS Section 15:  “This chemical/product is not and cannot be distributed in commerce (as defined in TSCA section 3(5)) or processed (as defined in TSCA section 3(13)) for consumer paint or coating removal.”

More information is available in our July 22, 2019, memorandum, “Communication and Recordkeeping Requirements Related to EPA Ban on Consumer Use Paint Removers Containing Methylene Chloride Go in Effect on August 26, 2019.”


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Margaret R. Graham, M.S.

On March 15, 2019, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew Wheeler signed a final rule prohibiting the manufacture (including import), processing, and distribution in commerce of methylene chloride for consumer paint and coating removal, including distribution to and by retailers; requiring manufacturers (including importers), processors, and distributors, except for retailers, of methylene chloride for any use to provide downstream notification of these prohibitions; and requiring recordkeeping.  The rule states that EPA has determined that “the use of methylene chloride in consumer paint and coating removal presents an unreasonable risk of injury to health due to acute human lethality.”  This final rule does not prohibit the use of methylene chloride in commercial paint and coating removal, however.  EPA is instead soliciting comment, through an advance notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPRM) also signed by Administrator Wheeler on March 15, 2019, on questions related to a potential training, certification, and limited access program as an option for risk management for all of the commercial uses of methylene chloride in paint and coating removal.  More information will be available on these issuances in a forthcoming memorandum to be available on our Regulatory Developments webpage.


 

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

On January 14, 2019, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Vermont, the Vermont Public Interest Group; Safer Chemicals, Health Families; and two individuals (plaintiffs) followed up on their earlier notice of intent to sue and filed a complaint against Andrew Wheeler and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to compel EPA to perform its “mandatory duty” to “address the serious and imminent threat to human health presented by paint removal products containing methylene chloride.”  Plaintiffs bring the action under Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) Section 20(a) which states that “any person may commence a civil action … against the Administrator to compel the Administrator to perform any act or duty under this Act which is not discretionary.”  Plaintiffs allege that EPA has not performed its mandatory duty under TSCA Sections 6(a) and 7.  TSCA Section 6(a) gives EPA the authority to regulate substances that present “an unreasonable risk of injury to health or the environment” and TSCA Section 7 gives EPA the authority to commence civil actions for seizure and/or relief of “imminent hazards.”  Plaintiffs’ argument to direct EPA to ban methylene chloride is centered on the issue of risk to human health only, however, stating that it presents “an unreasonable risk to human health” as confirmed by EPA.  Under TSCA Section 20(b)(2), plaintiffs are required to submit a notice of intent to sue 60 days prior to filing a complaint which they did on October 31, 2018.

Background

On January 19, 2017, EPA issued a proposed rule under TSCA Section 6 to prohibit the manufacture (including import), processing, and distribution in commerce of methylene chloride for consumer and most types of commercial paint and coating removal (82 Fed. Reg. 7464).  EPA also proposed to prohibit the use of methylene chloride in these commercial uses; to require manufacturers (including importers), processors, and distributors, except for retailers, of methylene chloride for any use to provide downstream notification of these prohibitions throughout the supply chain; and to require recordkeeping.  EPA relied on a risk assessment of methylene chloride published in 2014, the scope of which EPA stated included “consumer and commercial paint and coating removal.”  The proposed rule stated that in the risk assessment, EPA identified risks from inhalation exposure including “neurological effects such as cognitive impairment, sensory impairment, dizziness, incapacitation, and loss of consciousness (leading to risks of falls, concussion, and other injuries)” and, based on EPA’s analysis of worker and consumer populations' exposures to methylene chloride in paint and coating removal, EPA proposed “a determination that methylene chloride and NMP in paint and coating removal present an unreasonable risk to human health.”  The comment period on the proposed rule was extended several times, ending in May 2017, and in September 2017 EPA held a workshop to help inform EPA’s understanding of methylene chloride use in furniture refinishing. 

No further action was taken to issue the rule in final, however, until December 21, 2018, when EPA sent the final rule to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for review.  On the same day, EPA also sent another rule to OMB for review titled “Methylene Chloride; Commercial Paint and Coating Removal Training, Certification and Limited Access Program,” which has not previously been included in EPA’s Regulatory Agenda; very little is known about this rule.  Plaintiffs do not refer to it in the complaint but there is speculation, based on its title, that this second rule may allow for some commercial uses of methylene chloride.

Commentary

We recall the lawsuit filed by the Natural Resources Defense Counsel (NRDC) in 2018 challenging EPA’s draft New Chemicals Decision-Making Framework document as a final rule.  The current action further reflects the commitment of detractors of EPA to use the courts and every other means available to oppose the Administration’s TSCA implementation efforts.  Whether and when this court will respond is unclear.  What is clear is that the case will be closely watched, as the outcome will be an important signal to the TSCA stakeholder community regarding the utility of TSCA Section 20(a)(2) to force non-discretionary EPA actions that the Administration may be disinclined to take. 


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton

On August 29, 2018, the Democrats on the House Committee on Energy and Commerce issued a press release announcing that they have renewed their request for a hearing on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) implementation of the amendments made by the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act to the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).  The Democrats note this is the fourth request they have made for hearings to be held on EPA’s management of toxic chemicals.  According to the press release, the Democrats “remain concerned that EPA’s implementation of the reformed TSCA program contradicts the new law’s language and intent and undermines public confidence in the program.”  The press release states that the Democrats “are concerned that EPA is ignoring its own scientific evidence and the recommendations of its experienced career staff regarding TSCA implementation at the expense of public health.  They point to a recent report from the New York Times that found EPA officials proposed a rulemaking to review applications for use of asbestos in consumer products over the objections of EPA attorneys and scientists.”  The Democrats “also charge that EPA has abandoned its statutory mandate to review all new and existing chemicals known or foreseeable uses and exposure putting human health and the environment at risk,” possibly resulting in an incomplete evaluation of the health and environmental risk of a number of “extremely toxic chemicals, including asbestos, perchloroethylene (PERC), methylene chloride, and trichloroethylene (TCE).”  The letter was signed by Ranking Member Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), Environment Subcommittee Ranking Member Paul Tonko (D-NY), Raul Ruiz (D-CA), Scott Peters (D-CA), Gene Green (D-TX), Diana DeGette (D-CO), Jerry McNerney (D-CA), Tony Cardenas (D-CA), Debbie Dingell (D-MI), and Doris Matsui (D-CA).


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Margaret R. Graham

On May 1, 2017, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a notice in the Federal Register stating it was reopening and extending the comment period for two proposed rules:  (1) to prohibit the use of trichloroethylene (TCE) in vapor degreasing; to require manufacturers (including importers), 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 (issued January 19, 2017); and (2) to prohibit the manufacture (including import), processing, and distribution in commerce of methylene chloride and N-methylpyrrolidone (NMP) for consumer and most types of commercial paint and coating removal; to prohibit the use of methylene chloride and NMP in these commercial uses; to require manufacturers (including importers), processors, and distributors, except for retailers, of methylene chloride and NMP for any use to provide downstream notification of these prohibitions throughout the supply chain; and to require recordkeeping (issued January 19, 2017).  82 Fed. Reg. 20310.

This is the second extension of the comment period for the proposed rule to ban TCE use in vapor degreasing and the first extension of the comment period for the proposed rule to ban the uses of NMP and methylene chloride for consumer and most types of commercial paint and coating removal.  Comments on both proposed rules are now due on May 19, 2017.