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 July 27, 2021, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention (OCSPP) will hold a public meeting to engage with interested stakeholders on the development of a proposed rule for implementing a tiered data collection strategy to help inform EPA’s prioritization, risk evaluation, and risk management activities for chemical substances or mixtures under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). According to EPA, it currently primarily collects exposure-related data through the TSCA Chemical Data Reporting (CDR) process. EPA is interested in ensuring that data collection strategies provide information to meet better its basic chemical data needs, such as information related to exposure, health, and ecotoxicity. To this end, EPA states that it is exploring a data reporting rule that is tiered to specific stages of the TSCA existing chemicals program: identifying a pool of substances as potential candidates for prioritization; selecting candidate chemicals for and completing the prioritization process; and assessing high-priority substances through a robust risk evaluation, which may be followed by risk management actions (depending on the outcome of the risk evaluation). According to EPA, feedback from the public meeting and comments received will help inform its development of a proposed rule. The meeting will be held virtually via WebEx on July 27, 2021, from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m. (EDT). Those who would like to make a comment during the meeting must register by 6:00 p.m. EDT on July 22, 2021. Those who would like to participate in listen-only mode must register by 6:00 p.m. EDT on July 26, 2021. Written comments are due August 15, 2021.


 

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.

Commentary

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
 
As reported in our March 9, 2021, blog item, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced on March 8, 2021, that “in accordance with Biden-Harris Administration executive orders and directives,” it is asking for additional public input on five final rules for persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic (PBT) chemicals issued on January 6, 2021, under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).  On March 16, 2021, EPA announced that comments on the final rules are due May 17, 202186 Fed. Reg. 14398.  EPA seeks comment on:

  • Whether the rules sufficiently reduce exposure to these chemicals, including exposures to potentially exposed or susceptible subpopulations and the environment;
  • Newly raised compliance issues associated with the final rule on phenol, isopropylated phosphate (3:1) (PIP (3:1)), including the compliance dates for certain regulated articles; and
  • Whether to consider additional or alternative measures or approaches.

EPA will use the feedback received during the comment period to determine the best path forward, which could include amending the final rules to include additional or alternative exposure reduction measures or extending compliance dates for certain regulated products and articles.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
 
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced on March 8, 2021, that “in accordance with Biden-Harris Administration executive orders and directives,” it is asking for additional public input on five final rules for persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic (PBT) chemicals issued on January 6, 2021, under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).  EPA states that as a first step in its efforts to review these rules immediately, EPA is opening a 60-day comment period for the public to provide new input on:

  • Whether the rules sufficiently reduce exposure to these chemicals, including exposures to potentially exposed or susceptible subpopulations and the environment;
  • Newly raised compliance issues associated with the final rule on phenol, isopropylated phosphate (3:1) (PIP (3:1)), including the compliance dates for certain regulated articles; and
  • Whether to consider additional or alternative measures or approaches.

EPA states that it will use the feedback received during the comment period to determine the best path forward, which could include amending the final rules to include additional or alternative exposure reduction measures or extending compliance dates for certain regulated products and articles.  Upon publication of the Federal Register notice, EPA will accept public comments for 60 days.
 
Stakeholders recently informed EPA that the prohibition on processing and distribution of PIP (3:1) could impact articles used in a wide variety of electronics, from cell phones, to robotics used to manufacture semiconductors, to equipment used to move COVID-19 vaccines and keep them at the appropriate temperature.  EPA states that stakeholders “note that the complexity of international supply chains makes locating the presence of, and finding alternatives to, PIP (3:1) in components challenging.”  According to EPA, stakeholders assert that an extension to the compliance deadline is necessary to avoid significant disruption to the supply chain for a wide variety of articles.  EPA states that it was not its intent during the development of the final rule to have such a broad disruptive impact.  Thus, EPA “is also announcing its expectation that this specific issue will be addressed as part of the broader re-examination of these rules.”  EPA “intends to extend compliance dates as necessary for the prohibitions on processing and distribution of PIP (3:1) for use in some articles, and some of the articles to which PIP (3:1) has been added.”
 
EPA states that for these same reasons, it is issuing a temporary 180-day “No Action Assurance” indicating that the agency will exercise its enforcement discretion regarding the prohibitions on processing and distribution of PIP (3:1) for use in articles, and the articles to which PIP (3:1) has been added.  EPA “is taking this action to ensure that the supply chain of these important articles is not interrupted while EPA continues to collect the information needed to best inform subsequent regulatory efforts and allow for the issuance of a final agency action to extend the March 8, 2021, compliance date as necessary.”


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
 
On July 29, 2019, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published in the Federal Register its proposed rule intended to reduce exposures to certain chemicals that are persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic (PBT).  84 Fed. Reg. 36728.  EPA identified five chemicals pursuant to Section 6(h) of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA):  decabromodiphenyl ether (DecaBDE); phenol, isopropylated phosphate (3:1) (PIP (3:1)), also known as tris(4-isopropylphenyl) phosphate; 2,4,6-tris(tert-butyl)phenol (2,4,6-TTBP); hexachlorobutadiene (HCBD); and pentachlorothiophenol (PCTP).  The proposed rule would restrict or prohibit manufacture (including import), processing, and distribution in commerce for many uses of all of the chemicals except HCBD, for which EPA is proposing no regulatory action.  For the other four chemicals, the proposed rule includes recordkeeping requirements, as well as additional downstream notification requirements for PIP (3:1).  Comments are due September 27, 2019.  Our June 24, 2019, memorandum, “EPA Publishes Proposed PBT Chemicals Rule under TSCA,” provides a detailed review and analysis.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton

The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Environment and Climate Change announced on March 6, 2019, that it will hold a hearing on March 13, 2019, on “Mismanaging Chemical Risks:  EPA’s Failure to Protect Workers.”  The Subcommittee will address how the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) “is systemically ignoring worker risks in its implementation of the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety Act and other worker protections.”  Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) and Environment and Climate Change Subcommittee Chairman Paul Tonko (D-NY) stated that protecting vulnerable populations is an essential part of EPA’s mission, but under the Trump Administration, EPA “has systematically undervalued or completely overlooked the risks workers face from exposure to chemicals on the job.  Workers should not have to choose between their health and their jobs.”  Information for the hearing, including the Majority Memorandum, witness list and testimony, and a live webcast, will be posted on the hearing web page as they become available.


 

By Kathleen M. Roberts, Jason E. Johnston, M.S., Sheryl Lindros Dolan, and Margaret R. Graham

On June 25, 2018, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) held a preparatory meeting for experts selected to serve as letter peer reviewers for EPA's Exposure and Use Assessment and Human Health and Environmental Hazard Summary for five persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic (PBT) chemicals.  A list of those chemicals is available here.  Although the meeting was scheduled for four hours, it adjourned after only two hours, as there were only a few questions from peer reviewers and only two outside stakeholders providing oral comments.  Below are some highlights/takeaways from the meeting:

  • All five PBT chemicals being reviewed scored high for hazard;
  • Two PBT chemicals were pulled from EPA action under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) Section 6 because manufacturers requested risk evaluations for them prior to the September 19, 2016, deadline;
  • Four of the PBT chemicals scored high or moderate for exposure; one scored low (pentachlorothiophenol (PCTP));
  • For exposure assessment, EPA split up information as “core exposure data” or “supplemental exposure data”:  core exposure data would be environmental data, monitoring, biomonitoring, modeled concentrations, or modeled dose; and supplemental exposure data would be environmental fate, engineering data, or other information related to exposure information or pathways;
  • EPA identified exposure scenarios -- looking at source/use, environmental pathways, and receptors;
  • EPA did not conduct any new modeling on the chemicals but did use modeled data from published literature;
  • EPA did not conduct an exhaustive literature search, review, or assessment of hazard data, it used data readily available, as described in the Human Health and Environmental Hazard Summary; the EPA document “Supplemental Information for the Exposure and Use Assessment of Five Persistent, Bioaccumulative and Toxic Chemicals” outlines the literature search process used for exposure data; and
  • Exposure scenarios include both quantitative and qualitative information.

No written comments were submitted prior to the peer review webinar. Only three people signed up for oral comments, and one was not present online.  The two public commenters noted concerns regarding the likelihood of exposure, including the potential for accidental exposures; the lack of EPA focus on susceptible subpopulations; EPA’s intent not to address exposures that are already regulated under other EPA programs; and the need to assess the risk of bias.

Per the language in amended TSCA, EPA must issue risk management proposals to reduce exposures to the extent practicable by June 19, 2019.

Any public comments submitted by July 23, 2018, will be shared with peer reviewers. Comments submitted between July 23, 2018, and August 17, 2018, will be available to EPA for consideration.  All comments are due by August 17, 2018.  A recording of the webinar, slides, and other materials from the meeting will be posted in Docket EPA-HQ-OPPT-2018-0314.  There are currently six supporting documents posted:

Stay up-to-date on TSCA implementation issues via our Recent Regulatory Developments web page and our TSCAblog.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Margaret R. Graham

On May 25, 2018, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced it would host a half-day preparatory meeting for experts selected to serve as letter peer reviewers for EPA’s Exposure and Use Assessment and Human Health and Environmental Hazard Summary for Five Persistent, Bioaccumulative, and Toxic (PBT) chemicals.  Section 6(h) of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) directs EPA to issue regulations under Section 6(a) for certain PBT chemical substances that were identified in EPA’s TSCA Work Plan for Chemical Assessments: 2014 update.  The selected chemicals are:

  • Decabromodiphenyl ethers (DECA);
  • Hexachlorobutadiene (HCBD);
  • Pentachlorothiophenol (PCTP);
  • Phenol, isopropylated, phosphate (3:1) (PIP3/ITPP); and
  • 2,4,6-Tris(tert-butyl) phenol (2, 4, 6 TRIS).

EPA prepared an Exposure and Use Assessment and a Human Health and Environmental Hazard Summary in response to the requirements under TSCA Section 6(h) to summarize conclusions of toxicity and whether there is likely exposure to these PBT chemicals and EPA organized letter peer reviews for the Exposure and Use Assessment and the Human Health and Environmental Hazard Summary.  The Federal Register notice announcing the meeting states that during the preparatory meeting, “the individual letter peer reviewers will have the opportunity to comment on and ask questions regarding the scope and clarity of the draft charge questions.”  EPA’s background papers, related supporting materials, and charge/questions for these letter peer reviews are now available in Docket No. EPA-HQ-OPPT-2018-0314 on www.regulations.gov

The meeting is scheduled for June 25, 2018, from 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. (EDT) and will be held via teleconference and webcast only.  Registration is available online.  Those requesting to provide oral comments (approximately five minutes) are asked to register by June 21, 2018.  Though the peer reviewers may not be able to consider fully written comments submitted after July 23, 2018, EPA will consider all comments submitted on or before August 17, 2018

More information, including the list of experts, is available on EPA’s TSCA Peer Review website.