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.
In Case of First Impression, Court Rules EPA Wrongly Dismissed Citizen Group’s TSCA Section 21 Petition
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.
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.
EPA Extends Comment Date for Proposed Rule on Reporting Requirements for Mercury Inventory Under New TSCA
On December 19, 2017, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is scheduled to publish in the Federal Register a notice extending the comment period for the proposed rule on reporting requirements for the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) mercury inventory for 16 days, from December 26, 2017, to January 11, 2018. The notice states that “EPA received requests to extend the comment period and believes it is appropriate to do so … to give stakeholders additional time to assess the impacts of the proposal, review technical documents in the docket, and prepare comments. The 2016 amendments TSCA require EPA to establish periodic mercury reporting requirements for any person that manufactures mercury or mercury-added products or otherwise intentionally uses mercury in a manufacturing process to assist in the development of an inventory of mercury and other recommended actions. EPA’s proposed rule, issued on October 26, 2017 (82 Fed. Reg. 49564), specifically requires reporting on the manufacture, import, distribution in commerce, storage, and export of mercury.
More information on this proposed rule is available in our memorandum December 26, 2017, Deadline Approaching for Comments on EPA’s Proposed Reporting Requirements for TSCA Mercury Inventory.
On December 11, 2017, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics (OPPT) convened its public meeting on possible approaches for identifying potential candidates for prioritization under the amended Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). Key presenters were Jeffery Morris, Ph.D., Directory of OPPT, as well as several other OPPT staff, Health Canada (HC) and Environmental and Climate Change Canada (ECCC), and Russell S. Thomas with EPA’s Office of Research and Development (ORD).
The presentations from the meeting are listed below and available on EPA's website:
Nancy Beck, Ph.D. opened the workshop by welcoming attendees and provided some overview remarks. Dr. Beck noted that the workshop could result in more than one approach being considered, or could result in no process being adopted. Dr. Beck explained why EPA does not wish to prioritize chemicals with poor datasets. Unless EPA has sufficient information to conclude there is no unreasonable risk, EPA must proceed with risk evaluations within the specified timelines with increased uncertainties. This will result in a risk management process that has numerous default assumptions and uncertainty that will be difficult to defend. Such risk management results will likely be subject to litigation, which will be costly in terms of time and resources to both EPA and the stakeholders.
Dr. Morris stated that EPA hopes to implement a pre-prioritization approach by June 2018 to help ensure prioritization can begin in December 2018.
In its review of potential adjustments to the TSCA Work Plan for Chemical Assessments (TSCA Work Plan) approach, EPA staff clarified that there would be no changes to the current TSCA Work Plan chemical list last updated in 2014. It was suggested that EPA could rely on the current TSCA Work Plan approach as an interim method for pre-prioritization as EPA works to refine other approaches. EPA acknowledged that neither the current TSCA Work Plan approach nor the SCIL process included screens for certain criteria articulated in the amended TSCA legislation, including storage near significant sources of drinking water.
Based on comments by presenters at the workshop and references in EPA documentation, it appears that chemical substances of unknown or variable composition, complex reaction products and biological materials (UVCB) will be difficult to screen in the pre-prioritization approaches reviewed.
In response to EPA’s comment that active substances will be the starting point for pre-prioritization screening, one non-governmental organization (NGO) group raised concerns with legacy issues that might be associated with inactive substances (e.g., substances contained in products or materials that have been in use for years). NGO groups also commented that the hurdle for identifying a high priority chemical should be relatively low; whereas the hurdle for identifying a low priority chemical should be very high and could potentially include a required minimum data set.
All stakeholders expressed appreciation to EPA for the presentations and the various approaches reviewed. During the public comments, there did not appear to be specific support for any one approach.
We note that none of the approaches included specifics as to how EPA would assess whether the chemical being reviewed had sufficient data available to initiate prioritization and potential risk evaluation. Given EPA’s clear objective to avoid having data-poor chemicals being prioritized, this issue needs to be clearly and definitively addressed in EPA’s practices. Nor was there consideration as to how other governmental regulatory assessments could be incorporated into a pre-prioritization approach.
EPA will be accepting comments on the approach to prioritizing chemicals until January 25, 2018, in Docket ID EPA-HQ-OPPT-2017-0586. More information on the December 6, 2017, public meeting on EPA’s new chemicals review program is available in our blog under key phrase public meeting.
On December 11, 2017, in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit (Fourth Circuit) case on the petition for review of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) framework rule Procedures for Chemical Risk Evaluation under TSCA (Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments v. EPA, Case Nos. 17-1926, 17-2040, and 17-2244 (consolidated)), the Fourth Circuit granted the petitioners’ motions to transfer to the Ninth Circuit. This was not entirely unexpected, as the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit (Ninth Circuit) recently denied the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA or respondent) motions to transfer to the Ninth Circuit the consolidated cases on the petition for review of one of the other TSCA framework rules, Procedures for Prioritization of Chemicals for Risk Evaluation (Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families v. EPA, Case Nos. 17-72260, 17-72501, and 17-72968 (consolidated)) to the Fourth Circuit. Now both of these cases will be decided in the Ninth Circuit. In the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit (D.C. Circuit) case on the petition for review of the TSCA framework rule TSCA Inventory Notification (Active-Inactive) Requirements (EDF v. EPA, Case No. 17-1201), neither the petitioner or the respondents have moved to transfer this case so it will in all likelihood stay in the D.C. Circuit.
On December 6, 2017, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics (OPPT) convened a much anticipated public meeting on implementing changes to the new chemicals review program under the amended Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). EPA offered brief prepared remarks and previously solicited questions from stakeholders. Stakeholders expressed their appreciation to EPA for developing the draft Points to Consider and related documents made available in advance of the meeting, and for OPPT’s continuing interest on new chemical issues. For more information, see our blog “EPA Posts Agenda and Other Meeting Materials for December 6, 2017, New Chemicals Review Program Implementation Meeting.” Below are some key takeaways regarding the meeting as related to EPA’s presentations and input from industry and non-governmental organizations (NGO).
Conditions of Use, SNURs, and PMNs: EPA stated that one of its main concerns is when EPA does not identify unreasonable risk for intended use, but nonetheless has concerns with reasonably foreseen conditions of use. EPA stated that it will assess whether those concerns can be addressed through significant new use rules (SNUR) that it would promulgate prior to making its Section 5 finding. EPA stated that, in identifying reasonably foreseeable uses, it will rely on knowledge, experience, and facts to support what is foreseen, not simply what is possible. Several commenters requested clarification and examples on the information that will support such identifications. This is plainly an area of intense interest and on which EPA pledged to clarify.
EPA confirmed that the SNUR would mirror the premanufacture notice (PMN) in a way that would clearly state what deviations would be permitted to ensure protections for portions of the PMN about which EPA had identified concerns. In response to a direct question, Jeff Morris, Ph.D., OPPT Director, confirmed that he personally is looking at each new chemical notification decision to ensure a consistent and coherent approach to chemical reviews. Dr. Morris assured stakeholders that his engagement would not slow down the PMN review process.
NGO groups, that were ably represented at the meeting, expressed disappointment that they were not a part of the pilot testing component of the new chemicals Points to Consider document. OPPT clarified that the purpose of the pilot was to have parties who are actually preparing PMNs pilot use of the document while preparing PMNs and that as a result, non-PMN submitters were not a part of the pilot. Following a request from several NGOs, EPA stated that it would of course make the original and redline versions of the Points to Consider document publicly available to ensure full transparency. Several NGOs also voiced concern with the delay of EPA getting PMN information posted online. Commenters noted the need for access to more content related to the new chemicals review, such as detailed PMN determinations, as the determinations that are publicly available at this point are boilerplate. Interestingly, concerns were expressed on issues not germane to the workshop, such as existing and accidental releases of chemicals (not related to TSCA).
Of the parties that weighed in on the issue, industry representatives who addressed the issue were supportive of using SNURs to cover reasonably foreseeable conditions of use that are not reflected in the submitted PMNs. Some NGOs were supportive of the use of SNURs to reduce consent orders, while others stated that SNURs are not an adequate substitute for consent orders and that Congress intended for Section 5(e) orders to come first and to trigger SNURs. The concern over the use of SNURs rather than consent orders may relate to a concern of chemicals being introduced prior to the SNUR being published in final. Industry representatives also suggested that EPA seek to scale its information needs appropriately. For instance, less detailed exposure information should be required for EPA to determine that it has sufficient information on a low hazard chemical. Similarly, EPA should adjust the hazard profile requirements for a chemical with low exposure.
Chemical Categories: EPA reviewed the ongoing effort to develop four new chemical categories that could be used in future new chemical reviews. These are:
EPA asked for input and ideas on how to move forward with chemical categories -- either by updating existing categories or reviewing internal data to identify new categories -- and how the information should be presented (e.g., to publish separately or together in one document).
OSHA Focus: On behalf of the TSCA New Chemicals Coalition (TSCA NCC), Richard E. Engler, Ph.D., Bergeson & Campbell, P.C., provided comments that included feedback to EPA that it needs to develop a consultation process with the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) per the Section 5(f) legislative language. Dr. Engler suggested that EPA’s assessments could be communicated to submitters and OSHA to inform both on the endpoints of concern and EPA’s assessments of safe exposure limits. In this way, employers are obligated under the Occupational Safety and Health Act to assess hazards and exposures, provide information to workers, and ensure that exposures are controlled under OSHA’s authority, thereby satisfying EPA’s obligation to regulate “to the extent necessary” to protect such workers.
Sustainable Futures Program: EPA asked for input as to whether it should continue the Sustainable Futures Program. Some commenters supported the Sustainable Futures Program; no commenters spoke against it.
The presentations from the meeting are listed below and available online:
EPA’s next public meeting on TSCA’s implementation of Existing Chemicals Prioritization is coming up on December 11, 2017. More information on this upcoming meeting is available on our blog under key phrase public meeting.
EPA to Withdraw Direct Final Rule to Update Voluntary Consensus Standards for Composite Wood Products
On December 8, 2017, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is scheduled to publish in the Federal Register a notice that it is withdrawing its direct final rule issued on October 25, 2017, to update the voluntary consensus standards that were originally published in the Toxics Substances Control Act (TSCA) Title VI formaldehyde emission standards for composite wood products final rule on December 12, 2016. EPA issued both a direct final rule and a proposed rule on October 25, 2017. EPA states that, due to its receipt of adverse comment on the rule, it must withdraw the direct final rule and proceed with issuing a final rule only after it has considered all of the comments received during the comment period which ended on November 9, 2017.
The proposed updates apply to emissions testing methods and regulated composite wood product construction characteristics. EPA states that several of those voluntary consensus standards (i.e., technical specifications for products or processes developed by standard-setting bodies) were updated, withdrawn, and/or superseded through the normal course of business by these bodies to take into account new information, technology, and methodologies.
As a reminder, EPA has extended the compliance dates for the formaldehyde emission standards for composite wood products final rule that was issued on December 12, 2016. The extensions for compliance are:
On December 6, 2017, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced it was extending the public comment period to receive information on the five persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic (PBT) chemicals that are subject to Section 6(h) of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) which requires EPA to take expedited regulatory action to address risks from certain PBT chemicals. Comments were initially due on December 9, 2017; they are now due on January 12, 2018. EPA states it is interested in information from the public about these chemicals, including uses, products containing these chemicals, exposed populations, and alternatives to these chemicals. Very few comments have been filed regarding these chemicals thus far. The chemicals and corresponding docket numbers are:
More information on the PBTs is available on our blog under keyword PBTs.
On November 29, 2017, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee approved the nomination of Andrew R. Wheeler, Esquire for U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Deputy Administrator. Mr. Wheeler currently works as a Principal at Faegre Baker Daniels Consulting providing guidance on federal regulatory and legislative environmental and energy issues. He began his environmental policy career at EPA in 1991 when he was Special Assistant to the Information Management Division Director in the Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics (OPPT) during the George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton administrations. He also spent many years on Capitol Hill as Chief Counsel to U.S. Senator James Inhofe, and Staff Director and Chief Counsel for two Senate Committees: the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW) and the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Clean Air, Climate Change, Wetlands, and Nuclear Safety. Mr. Wheeler received his JD from Washington University in St. Louis School of Law, and his MBA from George Mason University.
EPA To Issue Final Determination on Whether to Revise Current Size Standards for Small Manufacturers and Processors under TSCA Section 8(a)
On November 30, 2017, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is scheduled to publish in the Federal Register a notice of its final determination on whether revision to the current size standards for small manufacturers and processors, which are used in connection with reporting regulations under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) Section 8(a), is warranted.
The notice states that EPA has made its final determination that revision is warranted based upon three factors, listed below.
More information on these standards is available on our blog item under key phrase size standards.
TSCA Framework Rules Litigation Update: Ninth Circuit Denies EPA’s Motion to Transfer to Fourth Circuit; Fourth Circuit Expected to Rule on Petitioners’ Transfer Motions Imminently
On November 27, 2017, in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit (Ninth Circuit) case on the petition for review of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) framework rule Procedures for Prioritization of Chemicals for Risk Evaluation (Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families v. EPA, Case Nos. 17-72260, 17-72501, and 17-72968 (consolidated)), the Ninth Circuit issued an order on several pending motions. It granted the American Chemistry Council’s (ACC) (and other industry groups) motion to intervene on behalf of respondent U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA); denied the respondents’ motions to transfer Case Nos. 17-72260 and 17-72501 to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit (Fourth Circuit); denied respondents’ requests to hold Case Nos. 17-72260 and 17-72501 in abeyance; granted the motions to consolidate Case Nos. 17-72260, 17-72501, and 17-72968; and set an amended briefing schedule. The consolidated opening brief is now due January 23, 2018; the consolidated answering brief and the intervenors’ brief are due February 22, 2018; and the optional reply brief is due within 21 days after service of the answering and intervenors’ briefs.
In the Fourth Circuit case on the petition for review of the TSCA framework rule Procedures for Chemical Risk Evaluation under TSCA (Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments v. EPA, Case Nos. 17-1926, 17-2040, and 17-2244 (consolidated)), the petitioners’ motions to transfer to the Ninth Circuit are still pending; on November 21, 2017, the Fourth Circuit deferred the ruling until the Ninth Circuit ruled on its own pending motions to transfer. As the Ninth Circuit has now denied the motions to transfer (per above), the Fourth Circuit will soon make a decision about whether this case should also be heard by the Ninth Circuit. A new briefing schedule has not been set.
In the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit (D.C. Circuit) case on the petition for review of the TSCA framework rule TSCA Inventory Notification (Active-Inactive) Requirements (EDF v. EPA, Case No. 17-1201), there are no current delays due to transfers or consolidations. Respondent EPA filed a motion to extend time to file its brief on November 7, 2017; petitioner Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) filed its statement of intent regarding appendix deferral on November 8, 2017, and filed its initial submissions including the statement of issues on November 8-9, 2017; and respondent EPA filed the certified index to the record on November 27, 2017. ACC and other industry groups were granted leave to intervene on behalf of respondent EPA on November 13, 2017. The briefing schedule has not been set.
EPA Releases List of Chemical Substances Reported under TSCA Inventory Notification (Active-Inactive) Rule
On November 22, 2017, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced it was releasing a preliminary list of chemical substances reported under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) Inventory Notification (Active-Inactive) rule that includes substances reported to EPA through November 10, 2017, and that it will be updated approximately once per month. EPA states that it is making this list available to help keep the stakeholder community informed of the status of reporting under the TSCA Inventory Notification (Active-Inactive) rule. EPA is providing the list in a downloadable, searchable spreadsheet. The total number of chemicals on the list is 10,730.
This total adds substantially to the 13,209 substances that appear on EPA’s list of substances exempt from Form A reporting. It is important to note that the new list is not an update to the list of interim active substances or to the list of substances exempt from Form A reporting; it is only a list of substances reported via Form A notices of activity through the specified date. The new list of substances reported by Form As will be useful to processors, allowing them to ensure that key substances are reported as active, but it does not relieve manufacturers or importers from the Form A reporting obligations of the rule.
More information on the TSCA Inventory Notification (Active-Inactive) rule is available on our blog item under key phrase TSCA Inventory.
On December 9, 2016, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) opened five dockets to collect information on five persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic (PBT) chemicals. EPA requested information on uses, products containing these chemicals, exposed populations, and alternatives to these chemicals. These five chemicals were selected on October 11, 2016, to receive expedited action under Section 6(h) of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), as amended by the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act, which requires EPA to take expedited regulatory action to address risks from certain PBT chemicals. The deadline to submit comments is fast approaching: December 9, 2017. The five chemicals and their corresponding dockets are:
In August 2017, EPA provided background information for each of the five PBT chemicals in the form of use documents which provide a preliminary summary of available information collected by EPA on the manufacturing (including importing), processing, distribution in commerce, use, and disposal of each chemical. Amended TSCA gives EPA three years to propose rules to reduce risks and exposures from these PBT chemicals to the extent practicable (until June 22, 2019), and EPA must issue the rules in final within 18 months of when they are proposed.
More information on the PBTs is available on our blog under keyword PBTs.
EPA Posts Agenda and Discussion Document for December 11, 2017, Approaches for Identifying Potential Candidates for Prioritization for Existing Chemical Risk Evaluations Meeting
On November 14, 2017, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released the agenda and meeting materials for its December 11, 2017, Approaches for Identifying Potential Candidates for Prioritization for Existing Chemical Risk Evaluations under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) meeting. EPA states that during this meeting, it will describe goals, guiding principles, and possible approaches for identifying potential candidate chemicals for prioritization; and take comment on possible approaches. Under amended TSCA, EPA is required to establish processes for prioritizing and evaluating risks from existing chemicals. The meeting materials include:
EPA Posts Agenda and Other Meeting Materials for December 6, 2017, New Chemicals Review Program Implementation Meeting
On November 9, 2017, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released the agenda and meeting materials for its December 6, 2017, New Chemicals Review Program Implementation meeting. NOTE WELL: This is a critically important meeting for companies that innovate in the chemical space and are now preparing Toxic Substance Control Act (TSCA) Premanufacture Notifications (PMN) or will in the future. EPA states that this meeting will update and engage with the public on EPA’s progress in implementing changes to the New Chemicals Review Program as a result of the 2016 amendments to TSCA, and will include a discussion of EPA’s draft New Chemicals Decision-Making Framework. The meeting materials include:
More information on the subsequent Approaches for Identifying Potential Candidates for Prioritization for Existing Chemical Risk Evaluations meeting on December 11, 2017, is available in our blog item EPA Schedules Two Meetings to Discuss TSCA Implementation Activities, Requests Comments.
On November 6, 2017, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is scheduled to publish a notice in the Federal Register in which it will announce two meetings to discuss implementation activities under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) as amended by the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 20th Century Act, as well as request public comments. The meetings are:
Online requests to participate in either meeting must be received on or before December 5, 2017. Both meetings will be held at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center, Horizon Ballroom, 1300 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., in Washington, D.C., and will be available by remote access for registered participants. EPA states that more information on the specifics of the meetings will be made available in the dockets and on EPA’s website prior to the meeting.