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By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton

Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) announced on January 5, 2022, that it filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to compel the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to disclose reports submitted pursuant to Section 8(e) of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). According to the complaint, PEER submitted a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request in November 2021 seeking records demonstrating how EPA deals with Section 8(e) reports. PEER states that it requested both Section 8(e) reports submitted to EPA and internal policies regarding publicly posting and using Section 8(e) reports. PEER notes that its FOIA request “built upon information reported in a November 2021 article in The Intercept noting that EPA had only posted one 8(e) report publicly since 2019 and describing disagreement over how the EPA processes 8(e) reports internally.”

In its announcement, PEER states that TSCA requires industry to notify EPA within 30 days when it obtains information that reasonably supports the conclusion that a chemical substance presents a substantial risk of injury to health or the environment. According to PEER, in early 2019, EPA stopped posting these industry reports in its public-facing database or on an easily searchable internal database. While industry submitted and EPA published more than 1,000 substantial risk reports from 2017 through 2018, PEER states that since 2019, EPA has posted only one to the public database. EPA scientists informed PEER that another approximately 1,240 reports have been received but sequestered.

PEER states that “[a]n EPA spokesperson told a news reporter that the person who had been responsible for posting these reports had retired in December 2018; and the agency lacked fundings to replace this single employee. However, at the same time, the agency finances an online tool enabling chemical companies to track their products through the approval process – internally called the ‘pizza tracker.’”

PEER asks the court to enter an order declaring that EPA wrongfully withheld requested documents and to issue a permanent injunction directing EPA to disclose all wrongfully withheld documents.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
 
On December 21, 2020, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that a report compiling the letter peer reviewers’ comments on the revised draft Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) risk evaluation of C.I. Pigment Violet 29 (PV29) is now available in Docket EPA-HQ-OPPT-2018-0604.  EPA states that it is in the process of reviewing the letter peer reviewers’ comments and will use the feedback received from the peer review and public comments to inform the final risk evaluation.
 
According to EPA, after it issued the draft risk evaluation in November 2018, it received additional data in response to test orders, as well as additional information voluntarily submitted by the sole U.S. manufacturer.  EPA states that these new data led it to revise its analytical approach for evaluating the potential exposure and health effects of PV29.  As a result of this updated analysis, the revised draft risk evaluation now shows unreasonable risk to workers for 11 out of 14 conditions of use.  Because these new data had a significant impact on EPA’s risk evaluation and ultimately the risk determinations, EPA provided an opportunity for the public to give input before issuing the final risk evaluation.
 
EPA notes that it also conducted a letter peer review of the revised draft risk evaluation using independent scientists, including one who has served as a member and several who have served as ad hoc peer reviewers for the TSCA Science Advisory Committee on Chemicals (SACC).  The peer review focused on charge questions supplied by EPA.  The report made available December 21, 2020, is the result of this letter peer review.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
 
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published a Federal Register notice on November 12, 2019, announcing the availability of its response to a petition it received under Section 21 of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) from Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).  84 Fed. Reg. 60986.  As reported in our August 23, 2019, blog item, PEER petitioned EPA under TSCA Section 21 to prohibit the use of hydrofluoric acid in manufacturing processes at oil refineries under TSCA Section 6(a) and under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) to take the same action pursuant to Section 112 of the Clean Air Act (CAA).  PEER petitioned EPA to prohibit the use of hydrofluoric acid in manufacturing processes at oil refineries and require a phase-out of use at such facilities within two years.  EPA states that after “careful consideration,” it has denied the Section 21 petition.  EPA notes that the Federal Register notice specifically addresses only the TSCA Section 21 petition, not the petition submitted under the APA.  EPA is denying the petition “based on the petition’s lack of sufficient facts establishing that it is necessary for the Agency to issue a rule under TSCA section 6(a).”  According to EPA, to grant a petition for a TSCA Section 6(a) rulemaking, a petition must provide facts establishing that the requested rulemaking is necessary.  Those facts need to be “sufficiently clear and robust for EPA to be able to conclude, within 90 days of filing the petition, that the chemical presents an unreasonable risk of injury to health or the environment and that issuance of a TSCA section 6(a) rule is the appropriate response to the petition.”  To make the threshold finding, EPA needs hazard and exposure data and other information to enable it to assess risk and conclude whether the risk is unreasonable.  In this case, EPA states that PEER’s petition “refers to hazard databases and makes conclusory statements of toxicity but provides little further information that would support granting a TSCA section 6(a) rulemaking request.”  According to EPA, the petition lacks the analysis that would be expected in a TSCA risk evaluation preceding a Section 6(a) rulemaking, such as “discussion of the appropriate hazard threshold, exposure estimates, assessment of risks, or how the facts presented allow EPA to comply with its duties under section 26 or other statutory requirements in making an unreasonable risk determination.”  Absent such information, EPA “cannot make the threshold determinations necessary to substantively assess and grant a petition for a TSCA section 6(a) rulemaking.”  EPA denies PEER’s petition request as facially incomplete.


 

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.