By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced on April 27, 2021, “important policy shifts in its review of new [per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS)] before they can enter the market.” According to EPA, although some new PFAS have been allowed to enter the market through low volume exemptions (LVE), EPA’s New Chemicals Program is implementing a new strategy for reviewing and managing LVE requests for PFAS. EPA states that due to the scientific complexities associated with assessing PFAS, and the hazard potential associated with various sub-classes of PFAS, “it is challenging to conduct an appropriately robust review of LVE requests for PFAS in the 30 days the regulations allow.” Under the regulations, EPA can deny LVE requests if it finds the chemical may cause serious human health effects or significant environmental effects or when issues concerning toxicity or exposure require review that cannot be completed in 30 days. According to EPA, “[g]iven the complexity of PFAS chemistry, potential health effects, and their longevity and persistence in the environment, an LVE submission for a PFAS is unlikely to be eligible for this kind of exemption under the regulations.” While EPA will consider each LVE application individually, it “generally expects” that it will deny pending and new LVE submissions for PFAS. This will allow EPA more time to conduct a more thorough review and, as appropriate, “put measures in place to mitigate the potential risk of these chemicals as the agency determines whether to allow them to enter commerce.” EPA states that in addition, it is “exploring ways to work cooperatively with companies to voluntarily withdraw previously granted LVEs.” EPA states that this “would build upon a 2016 outreach effort that resulted in companies withdrawing more than half of the 82 long-chain PFAS LVEs that existed at the time.”
By Lynn L. Bergeson, Richard E. Engler, Ph.D., and Carla N. Hutton
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced on March 29, 2021, that it is evaluating its policies, guidance, templates, and regulations under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) new chemicals program to ensure they “adhere to statutory requirements,” the Biden-Harris Administration’s executive orders, and other directives. EPA identified several instances where its approach for making determinations and managing risks associated with new chemicals can, according to EPA, more closely align with TSCA’s requirements to ensure protections for human health and the environment, including the use of significant new use rules (SNUR) and assumptions related to worker exposures. EPA states that it will stop issuing determinations of “not likely to present an unreasonable risk” based on the existence of proposed SNURs. According to EPA, “[r]ather than excluding reasonably foreseen conditions of use from EPA’s review of a new substance by means of a SNUR, Congress anticipated that EPA would review all conditions of use when making determinations on new chemicals and, where appropriate, issue orders to address potential risks.” Going forward, when EPA concludes that one or more uses may present an unreasonable risk, or when EPA believes that it lacks the information needed to make a safety finding, EPA will issue an order to address those potential risks.
EPA states that as has been the “long-standing practice,” it intends to continue issuing SNURs following TSCA Section 5(e) and 5(f) orders for new chemicals to ensure the requirements imposed on the submitter via an order apply to any person who manufactures or processes the chemical in the future. EPA notes that this ensures that other manufacturers of the same new chemical substance are held to the same conditions as the submitter subject to the TSCA Section 5(e) or 5(f) order.
EPA states that it now intends to ensure necessary protections for workers identified in its review of new chemicals through regulatory means. According to the announcement, where EPA identifies a potential unreasonable risk to workers that could be addressed with appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) and hazard communication, EPA will no longer assume that workers are protected adequately under the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) worker protection standards and updated safety data sheets (SDS). Instead, EPA will identify the absence of worker safeguards as “reasonably foreseen” conditions of use, and mandate necessary protections through a TSCA Section 5(e) order, as appropriate.
The first policy change -- that the Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics (OPPT) will no longer employ the “non-order SNUR” construction to regulate new chemicals without an order -- was somewhat predictable. This construction, since its inception, has led to questions about whether this interpretation meets the requirements under TSCA Section 5. In our view, EPA issuing a SNUR to prohibit conditions of use that EPA identifies as potentially leading to an unreasonable risk was an appropriate and expeditious means to achieve the protective end (the TSCA regulation) without the inefficiency and delays associated with the development of a consent order. EPA would only use this option when EPA concluded the intended conditions of use were not likely to present an unreasonable risk. It is not clear why a SNUR is viewed as being less protective than an order, when an order applies only to the premanufacture notice (PMN) submitter and a SNUR applies to all actors in the supply chain. EPA is required to promulgate a SNUR that conforms to an order absent a reason otherwise. The claim that undertaking a condition of use that is defined in a SNUR as a significant new use “requires only notification to EPA” misrepresents the rigor of the significant new use notice (SNUN) process. A SNUN functions just like a PMN, with a similar level of effort required on the submitter’s and EPA’s parts and nearly identical determination outcomes (a consent order, modification of the existing SNUR, or revocation of the existing SNUR if warranted), so saying that a SNUN is “just a notification to EPA” is the equivalent of stating that a PMN is “just a notification to EPA.” Detractors might also claim that orders include testing, but that presumes that testing is required for EPA to make an informed decision. If EPA can, as it routinely does, make a decision based on conservative assumptions with analogs, models, and information provided by the submitter, EPA can similarly make an informed decision about what measures are necessary to achieve its protective goal without new test data. In Bergeson & Campbell, P.C.’s (B&C®) view, this policy change will add marginal, if any, protective benefit at a significant increase in effort by both EPA and the submitter.
EPA’s decision that it no longer views use of PPE as reasonably foreseeable is an unwelcome and unprincipled development. B&C, on behalf of the TSCA New Chemicals Coalition (NCC), provided, at OPPT’s request, a robust data set that demonstrated that proper PPE is rarely not used in an industrial/commercial setting. A database of 40 years of OSHA violations contained very few glove, goggle, and general dermal protection violations -- all obvious violations to any inspector. The marginal number of OSHA violations supports the NCC’s view that standard PPE use is both reasonably foreseeable and highly likely and demonstrably so. Today’s unexplained reversal is difficult to reconcile with these facts. If EPA proceeds to issue orders for every PMN that may present a risk if workers do not take routine protective measures, then EPA will be required to regulate nearly every PMN in which EPA identifies a hazard other than “low hazard” for health and ecotoxicity, as was EPA’s practice when the Lautenberg amendments were passed in 2016. As we have stated previously, that would mean that EPA will be implementing TSCA as a hazard-based law, instead of the clear risk-based law that it is.
By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
On February 16, 2021, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (National Academies) announced the availability of a report entitled The Use of Systematic Review in EPA’s Toxic Substances Control Act Risk Evaluations. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requested that the National Academies convene a committee to review EPA’s 2018 guidance document on Application of Systematic Review in TSCA Risk Evaluations and associated materials. In its final report, the Committee to Review EPA’s Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) Systematic Review Guidance Document states that it “was in strong consensus that the processes used by [the Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics (OPPT)] do not meet the evaluation criteria specified in the Statement of Task (i.e., comprehensive, workable, objective, and transparent).” The Committee recognizes the “substantial challenges in implementing review methods on the schedule required by” the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act (Lautenberg Act), but concluded that those challenges “have not yet been successfully met.” The final report includes the following summary of the Committee’s general recommendations:
- OPPT’s approach to systematic review does not adequately meet the state of the practice. The Committee suggests that OPPT comprehensively reevaluate its approach to systematic review methods, addressing the comments and recommendations provided in Chapter 2 of the final report.
- With regard to hazard assessment for human and ecological receptors, the Committee comments that “OPPT should step back from the approach that it has taken and consider components” of the Office of Health Assessment and Translation (OHAT) of the National Toxicology Program, EPA’s Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS), and Navigation Guide methods that could be incorporated directly and specifically into hazard assessment.
- The Committee finds that OPPT’s use of systematic review for the evidence streams, for which systematic review has not been previously adapted, “to be particularly unsuccessful.” The Committee suggests that OPPT elaborate plans for continuing the refinement of methods, ideally in collaboration with internal and external stakeholders. The Committee also suggests that OPPT evaluate how the existing OHAT, IRIS, and Navigation Guide methods could be modified for the other evidence streams. In addition, according to the Committee, OPPT should use existing EPA guidance, such as the Guidelines for Human Exposure Assessment, the Guidelines for Ecological Risk Assessment, and the operating procedures for the use of the ECOTOXicology knowledgebase (ECOTOX). Following these existing guidelines would improve transparency of the assessments.
- The Committee recommends that EPA put together a handbook for TSCA review and evidence integration methodology that details the steps in the process. Throughout the final report, the Committee points to problems of documentation. The Committee “believes that the effort of developing and publicly vetting a handbook will pay off in the long run by making the process more straightforward, transparent, and easier to follow.”
The final report states that “[t]here is an ongoing cross-sector effort to develop and validate new tools and approaches for exposure, environmental health, and other new areas of application of systematic review,” and the Committee “strongly recommends that OPPT staff engage in these efforts.” According to the final report, the approaches used for TSCA evaluation “would benefit from the substantial external expertise available,” as well as additional transparency and acceptance by the different stakeholders as these tools are developed.
EPA published a press release on February 16, 2021, in response to the Committee’s report, announcing that it “will refine its approach to selecting and reviewing the scientific studies that are used to inform” TSCA chemical risk evaluations. According to EPA, its “ongoing effort to update its systematic review approach” is also part of its “broader efforts” to review the first ten TSCA risk evaluations. EPA states that it “is not using, and will not again use, the systematic review approach that was reviewed by the Academies.” The 2018 Application of Systematic Review document “represented EPA’s practices at that time.” According to the press release, EPA has already begun to develop a TSCA systematic review protocol in collaboration with its Office of Research and Development to incorporate approaches from the IRIS Program. EPA “expects to publish and take public comment on a TSCA systematic review protocol that will adopt many of the recommendations in the Academies’ report later this year.”
By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced on February 3, 2021, the latest update to the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) Inventory, “a list of all existing chemical substances manufactured, processed, or imported” in the United States. EPA states that this biannual update to the public TSCA Inventory is part of its regular posting of non-confidential TSCA Inventory data. EPA plans to release the next regular update of the Inventory in summer 2021. According to EPA, the Inventory contains 86,557 chemicals of which 41,864 are active in U.S commerce. EPA notes that other updates to the TSCA Inventory include new chemical substance additions, commercial activity data, and regulatory flags, such as polymer exemptions, TSCA Section 4 test orders, and TSCA Section 5 significant new use rules (SNUR).
By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
On January 12, 2021, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced a memorandum of understanding (MOU) that advances collaboration and communication on EPA’s review of new chemicals under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). EPA states that the MOU provides a framework for coordination and communication between the two agencies on exposure to new chemicals in the workplace and will help achieve the agencies’ shared goal of ensuring workers are protected from potential health and environmental risks. As required by TSCA, EPA and OSHA are collaborating on workplace exposures as part of EPA’s review of new chemicals. The MOU formalizes coordination efforts that EPA and OSHA have already implemented and provides a framework for additional opportunities for collaboration. Highlights of the MOU include:
- Establishing designated staff and management points of contact from each agency to discuss and resolve workplace exposure issues related to EPA’s review of new chemicals;
- Providing OSHA with regular updates on EPA’s new chemical determinations, including any necessary worker protection identified during EPA’s review; and
- Documenting EPA’s role in identifying and notifying OSHA of the need for formal consultation on EPA’s review of new chemicals.
More information will be available in a forthcoming memorandum that will be posted on our website.
By Lynn L. Bergeson, Carla N. Hutton, and Richard E. Engler, Ph.D.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has posted a Compliance Advisory entitled “Applicability of the Toxic Substances Control Act to Chemicals made from Petroleum and Renewable Sources Used as Fuels and Fuel Additives and Distillates.” The Compliance Advisory states that EPA is reaffirming that chemical substances used as fuels, fuel additives, and distillates made from either petroleum or renewable sources are subject to the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). Anyone who plans to manufacture (including import) a chemical made from petroleum or renewable sources must comply with the statutory and regulatory new chemical requirements under TSCA Section 5. According to the Compliance Advisory, EPA has received stakeholder inquiries “as to whether fuel and fuel additives made from renewable sources (such as renewable naphtha) are subject to the TSCA new chemicals requirements under section 5.” EPA states that it is issuing the Compliance Advisory “to affirm that fuel and fuel additives either made from petroleum or renewable sources are subject to TSCA and have been subject to its requirements since 1976.”
According to the Compliance Advisory, there are about 142 “naphthas” and 178 “distillates” (that compositionally can qualify as naphthas) currently on the TSCA Inventory, and they are considered Unknown, Variable composition, Complex, or Biological (UVCB) substances. Any substance that is not on the TSCA Inventory is a new chemical under TSCA Section 5(a)(1)(A). Prior to manufacture (including import) of a new chemical for commercial use, a premanufacture notice (PMN) must be filed with EPA under TSCA Section 5. The Compliance Advisory includes several questions and answers (Q&A), including:
Can you manufacture or import a chemical substance made from a renewable source if it is not listed on the TSCA Inventory?
No. Anyone who intends to manufacture (including import) a new chemical substance that is subject to TSCA for a non-exempt commercial purpose is required to submit a PMN at least 90 days prior to the manufacture of the chemical. Manufacturers (importers) are in violation of TSCA if they fail to comply or are late in complying with TSCA notice requirements. If you are required to submit a PMN, failure to do so is a violation of TSCA Section 15 and you may be subject to penalties. PMN submissions must include all available data, pursuant to 40 CFR 720.45 and 720.50. TSCA requires EPA to review the notice and make a determination; and, if appropriate, regulate the proposed activity.
EPA’s “compliance advisory” is disappointing. It signals this EPA is disinclined to promote renewable petroleum cuts and essentially (and emphatically) reaffirms what we believe to be EPA’s inflexible and unimaginative stance on “source” being determinative in petroleum cut UVCBs. This position, as we have noted in a variety of regulatory contexts, is a substantial disincentive to commercializing renewable petroleum cuts. EPA’s view is especially problematic when a refinery might wish to use a combination of petroleum and renewable feedstocks to make a single naphtha (or other distillate) cut.
For example, to avail itself of the equivalence determination, a company would have to submit a PMN for the renewable equivalent of a petroleum cut, sign the almost certain resultant consent order (EPA will undoubtedly identify aquatic toxicity concerns and may also identify health concerns), commence manufacture, file a Notice of Commencement of Manufacture or Import (NOC), and then request an equivalency determination. If EPA denies the equivalency determination, any downstream processor or user will have to either segregate the renewable products from the petroleum products so that the downstream entity can maintain records of compliance with the consent order or treat both the renewable and petroleum products as being subject to the order. Neither option is commercially feasible or sustainable.
This sequence of events illustrates why commercial entities are disinclined to avail themselves of renewable sources in the distillate space. EPA’s “compliance advisory” is an unexpected and, to many, unwanted parting gift from the Trump Administration. The Biden Administration may wish to revisit the wisdom and prudence of this inflexible, antiquated, and inequitable view.
By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
As reported in our May 29, 2020, blog item, on May 28, 2020, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Office of Inspector General (OIG) issued a report entitled EPA Toxic Substances Control Act Consent Orders Need Better Coordination. OIG conducted the evaluation to determine what actions EPA took to verify compliance with the requirements of a 2009 Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) Premanufacture Notice Consent Order. OIG’s recommendations included that EPA implement a process for the Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance (OECA) to review and approve the terms and conditions of TSCA Section 5(e) Consent Orders that it is responsible for verifying during compliance monitoring and enforcement activities. On August 5, 2020, OIG announced that EPA has provided an update to its response to the OIG report. EPA states that the Office of Civil Enforcement/Waste and Chemical Enforcement Division (OECA/WCED) and the Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics/Chemical Control Division (OCSPP/CCD) have developed a TSCA Section 5(e) Order Boilerplate that “clarifies and strengthens the provisions of the Order for New Chemical Substances.” According to EPA, in 2020, OCSPP/CCD and OECA/WCED established and implemented a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) to ensure that WCED, the office responsible for compliance monitoring and enforcement activities, reviews and approves the terms and conditions of TSCA Section 5(e) Orders developed by CCD. EPA notes that the establishment of the SOP is intended to meet OIG’s recommendation. EPA states that the Review and Approval Protocol “provides sufficient assurance that compliance and enforcement requirements in TSCA 5(e) orders will be reviewed and approved by OCSPP and OECA.” OIG commented on EPA’s updated response, stating that it now considers this recommendation complete.
By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
On June 3, 2020, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) submitted to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) a final significant new use rule (SNUR) on long-chain perfluoroalkyl carboxylate (LCPFAC) and perfluoroalkyl sulfonate (PFAS) chemical substances. On March 3, 2020, EPA published a proposed supplemental SNUR for LCPFAC chemical substances that would make inapplicable the exemption for persons who import a subset of LCPFAC chemical substances as part of surface coatings on articles. 85 Fed. Reg. 12479. Under the proposed supplemental SNUR, issued under Section 5(a)(2) of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), this subset of LCPFAC chemical substances also includes the salts and precursors of these perfluorinated carboxylates. The supplemental proposal would require importers to notify EPA at least 90 days before commencing the import of these chemical substances in certain articles for the significant new use described in the proposed SNUR. The required significant new use notification would initiate EPA’s evaluation of the conditions of use associated with the intended significant new use. Manufacturing (including import) or processing for the significant new use would be prohibited from commencing until EPA has conducted a review of the notice, made an appropriate determination on the notice, and taken such actions as are required in association with that determination. As noted in our February 28, 2020, memorandum, “Proposed Supplemental SNUR Would Remove Exemption for LCPFAC Chemical Substances Used as Surface Coatings on Articles,” one of the goals of the proposed supplemental SNUR is to establish the ground rules for EPA’s consideration of the article exemption in future SNUR actions. The final SNUR that is under OMB review is not publicly available, so it remains to be seen whether EPA has successfully established policies and procedures that both align with statutory requirements and also are workable, effective, predictable, transparent, and justified scientifically.
By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
On May 28, 2020, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Office of Inspector General (OIG) issued a report entitled EPA Toxic Substances Control Act Consent Orders Need Better Coordination. OIG conducted the evaluation to determine what actions EPA took to verify compliance with the requirements of the 2009 Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) Premanufacture Notice Consent Order with DuPont (responsibilities transferred to The Chemours Company in 2015) to prevent the release of GenX chemicals in the Cape Fear River in North Carolina. OIG notes that GenX chemicals are a type of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) found in surface water, groundwater, drinking water, rain water, and air emissions. OIG found insufficient communication and coordination between the two EPA offices responsible for developing and enforcing the consent order requirements designed to reduce risks in the manufacture of GenX chemicals. Under the 2009 Consent Order, EPA required DuPont to determine how to recover and capture 99 percent of GenX’s manufacturing discharges and air emissions. The Consent Order was not reviewed or approved by the Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance (OECA), which is responsible for conducting inspections to verify compliance, however. Until June 2017, EPA’s actions to verify compliance with the 2009 Consent Order and new chemicals testing requirements consisted of tracking and reviewing information provided by the manufacturer. According to OIG, following the local media coverage of the presence of GenX chemicals in the Cape Fear River in 2017, Region 4 and EPA contractors conducted EPA’s first on-site compliance monitoring inspection at the Fayetteville Works facility, which manufactures GenX. OIG found that the Region 4 inspectors were unaware of the 2009 Consent Order and its requirements until the inspection was requested by EPA headquarters.
OIG recommends that EPA establish and implement processes:
- For OECA to review and approve the terms and conditions of TSCA Section 5(e) Consent Orders that it is responsible for verifying during compliance monitoring and enforcement activities; and
- To provide final TSCA Section 5(e) Consent Orders to regions and verify that the regions have the final consent orders.
OIG states that EPA “did not provide an acceptable corrective action for Recommendation 1, and we consider this recommendation unresolved.” For Recommendation 2, EPA provided an alternative course of action that OIG finds acceptable. OIG considers Recommendation 2 resolved with corrective action pending.
By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
On May 12, 2020, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released the signed final rule updating the definition of small manufacturers, including a new definition of what is considered a small government, used to determine reporting and recordkeeping requirements under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). According to EPA, the updated definitions will reduce reporting burdens on chemical manufacturers and small governments while maintaining the agency’s ability to receive the information it needs to understand exposure to chemical substances manufactured in the United States. The final rule makes a technical correction to the small manufacturer reference at 40 C.F.R. Section 704.104 for hexafluoropropylene oxide, which only includes a rule-specific small processor definition and not a small manufacturer definition. When reviewing the small manufacturer size standards, EPA found this to be an “inadvertent error.” The final rule also updates the current small manufacturer definition in the Preliminary Assessment Information Rule (PAIR) at 40 C.F.R. Section 712.25 to align it with the updated small manufacturer definition at 40 C.F.R. Section 704.3.
EPA notes that the updated definitions will apply to the Chemical Data Reporting (CDR) rule reporting period beginning June 1, 2020, and will impact certain reporting and recordkeeping requirements for TSCA Section 8(a) rules. EPA states that the final rule is based on 2018 dollars to ensure that the definition is as up to date as possible at the time of promulgation. The final rule will be effective 30 days after publication in the Federal Register. EPA has posted the pre-publication version of the final rule on its website.
More information on CDR reporting is available in our May 13, 2020, blog item, “New Reporting Procedure for Co-Manufacturers under TSCA CDR Rule May Catch Certain Manufacturers Off Guard,” and our March 19, 2020, memorandum, “EPA Releases Final Amendments to CDR Rule, Extends Reporting Period.”