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.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC), and Health Canada (HC) have released an educational primer on U.S. and Canadian regulations regarding chemical substances. EPA states that the purpose of the primer is to compile easy-to-use information for stakeholders potentially regulated under similar U.S. and Canadian regulations -- Significant New Use Rules (SNUR) in the U.S. and Significant New Activity (SNAc) provisions in Canada. EPA, ECCC, and HC previously collaborated in the implementation of a Regulatory Cooperation Council (RCC) Work Plan on Chemicals Management that focused on SNURs and SNAcs. The primer states that an overarching issue identified during the roundtable discussions was the need for improved outreach and education, ranging from the basics of the SNUR/SNAc programs to specific requirements for various stakeholders, especially for potentially less-informed stakeholder groups, such as foreign suppliers, and small, niche companies in the U.S. and Canada. According to EPA, information in the primer will assist the regulated community to determine how to comply and engage their supply chains to help facilitate compliance for meeting SNUR and SNAc requirements. The primer notes that it does not substitute for any SNUR or SNAc provisions, nor is it a rule itself. The primer does not impose legally binding requirements on the regulated community or on EPA, ECCC, or HC.
The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine released a new report on April 11, 2018, that finds that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) Program has made “substantial progress” in implementing recommendations outlined by the National Academies in previous reports. According to the April 11, 2018, press release, the transformation of IRIS began several years ago, after the release of a 2011 National Academies report that provided suggestions for creating a more systematic and transparent IRIS process. In a 2014 report, the National Academies reviewed the changes implemented by EPA since 2011 and concluded that the improvements were considerable. Under the Program’s new leadership, EPA asked the National Academies to review again its progress toward addressing past recommendations. The press release states that the National Academies’ latest review, Progress Toward Transforming the Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) Program, finds that the IRIS Program has made substantial progress in incorporating systematic-review methods into its process and assessments. The IRIS Program has also established a systematic-review working group and engaged subject-matter experts. According to the report, these groups should increase efficiency and consistency among assessments and improve the scientific rigor of the assessments. Although the National Academies Committee to Review Advances Made to the IRIS Process “offers some refinements and identifies a few possibilities for further development,” the report states that “its overall conclusion is that EPA has been responsive and has made substantial progress in implementing National Academies[’] recommendations.”
EPA Appoints Additional Members to Science Advisory Committee on Chemicals; NGO Scientists Decline Appointment
On March 22, 2018, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt appointed 11 additional members to the Science Advisory Committee on Chemicals. Under the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act, the purpose of the Committee is to provide independent advice and expert consultation, at the request of the EPA Administrator, with respect to the scientific and technical aspects of risk assessments, methodologies, and pollution prevention measures or approaches supporting implementation of the Act. According to EPA, these additional members “will increase the balance of scientific perspectives and add experts with experience in labor, public interest, animal protection and chemical manufacturing and processing to the committee.” The additional 11 members -- three from non-governmental organizations (NGO), four from industry, and four from academia or governmental organizations -- will supplement the 18 expert members that were appointed on January 19, 2017. The Committee will meet three to four times a year for two years, and its charter can be extended. EPA has not yet scheduled the Committee’s first meeting.
Two of the members have reportedly declined the appointment. Dr. Michael Wilson, National Director for Occupational and Environmental Health at the BlueGreen Alliance, “notified EPA that he was unable to accept the appointment,” according to a spokesperson for the BlueGreen Alliance. Dr. Jennifer McPartland, Senior Scientist at the Environmental Defense Fund, has also declined the appointment. Ruthann Rudel, Director of Research at the Silent Spring Institute, stated that she is “collecting some advice and information” and has not decided whether to accept the appointment.
On April 4, 2018, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the following management changes in its Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics (OPPT):
These are significant leadership changes and are likely intended to maximize OPPT efficiency. We applaud OPPT’s continuing efforts to implement TSCA and the changes occasioned by the enactment of the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act almost two years ago.
On March 28, 2018, the Superior Court of California, Los Angeles County, issued its Statement of Decision (Phase II) (Defendants’ Alternative Significant Risk Level (ASRL) Affirmative Defense) that found that the defendants failed to meet their burden of proof on their ASRL affirmative defense. Council for Education and Research on Toxics (CERT) v. Starbucks Corporation (Starbucks), No. BC435759 (L.A. Super. Ct., filed April 13, 2010). CERT’s (plaintiff) complaint alleged that Starbucks, along with 18 other defendants (the total later reached 91 defendants when a second action was filed (now consolidated)), that sell ready-to-drink coffee failed to provide warnings to consumers that the coffee sold contained high levels of acrylamide, a carcinogenic chemical, in violation of Proposition 65 (Prop 65). The defendants denied the material allegations and asserted various affirmative defenses, violation of the First Amendment, and federal preemption. According to the order, the parties did not dispute that acrylamide, listed as a carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), and under Prop 65 since 1990, is listed by the State of California as a chemical believed to cause cancer; or that they failed to provide warnings to consumers that the ready to drink coffee they sold contained high levels of acrylamide.
In Phase I of the trial, the court came to a similar conclusion, that defendants failed to meet their burden of proof by preponderance of evidence on their affirmative defenses of “no significant risk level,” First Amendment, and federal preemption to avoid the requirement of cancer warning labels as to the existence of acrylamide in brewed coffee. The trial on Phase II of the case ran from September 2017 to November 2017 and post-trial briefs were filed in December 2017 and January 2018. The order states that to have prevailed on their ASRL defense, defendants needed prove all of the below, which they failed to do:
The ASRL affirmative defense is grounded on an exemption to the cancer hazard warning requirement under Prop 65, but as the defendants were not able to prevail on this defense, they will now be required to provide the Prop 65 warning language on their ready-to-drink coffee products, but the order does not specify any details regarding this. The decision also exposes the defendants to liability in terms of millions in fines. The defendants have until April 10, 2018, to file objections to the decision.
EPA, OSHA, DHS Agree to Create New Protocols Requiring Notification And Coordination With First Responders
U.S. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-NY) on March 20, 2018, announced that, after his intervention, representatives from the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) are working to create new protocols for communicating and training with local governments and first responders. OSHA, EPA and DHS will convene the Chemical Facility Security and Safety Working Group (Working Group), which will coordinate strategies, activities, policies, and communication to address concerns that there should be an immediate and more thorough improvement of OSHA’s coordination and communication systems to local municipalities and their respective stakeholders. Specifically, the Working Group is moving forward with a new partnership between the agencies regarding the coordination of communication between state and local governments when there is a serious violation cited. The protocol will address the lack of communication with local first responders, safety and training agreements, and coordination on information sharing about all the relevant agencies when a local company is cited for serious violations -- like the reported mishandling of Verla International’s (Verla) use of flammable liquids.
The new protocol is intended to ensure that emergency response agencies are notified when a facility receives a serious health or environmental violation, so that they can proactively prevent accidents and prepare to respond when accidents and fires occur. Specifically, the Working Group is tasked with:
In April 2017, OSHA cited Verla’s cosmetic factory in New Windsor, New York for improper storage of flammable liquids that resulted in several serious violations, and in November 2017 there was an explosion and fire at the factory where one worker was killed and 40 people, including seven firefighters, were injured -- a tragedy that may have been avoided had the first responders been notified of the violations and known better how to handle the situation. Senator’s Schumer’s concerns about the lack of communication and notification stem from these events. He states the new protocols “will provide technical expertise and tighter coordination with federal and regional first responder operations to try to make sure the lack of communication and awareness of preexisting issues faced by first responders back in November is a thing of the past.”
On February 8, 2018, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a technology assessment report to congressional requestors entitled Chemical Innovation: Technologies to Make Processes and Products More Sustainable. GAO states it conducted this technology assessment “to explore, among other things, the opportunities, challenges, and federal roles in sustainable chemistry.” This report discusses (1) how stakeholders define and assess sustainable chemistry; (2) available or developing technologies to make chemical processes and products more sustainable; and (3) how the federal government, industry and others contribute to the development and use of such technologies. GAO states it is not making recommendations in this report, but is identifying strategic implications.
As part of its assessment, GAO interviewed stakeholders from government, industry, and academia; convened a meeting of experts on sustainable chemistry technologies and approaches; and surveyed a non-generalizable sample of chemical companies. GAO identified three categories of more sustainable chemistry technologies -- catalysts, solvents, and continuous processing -- that demonstrate both progress and potential:
GAO also identified, through its interaction with stakeholders, the following strategic implications of sustainable chemistry; and potential options to address these challenges and realize the full potential of these technologies:
More information on the report and its strategic implications is available on GAO’s website.
On March 13, 2018, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released three draft guidance documents for public comment clarifying the circumstances under which EPA may disclose Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) confidential business information (CBI) with an expanded set of people. Amended TSCA Section 14(d) expanded the categories of people to whom EPA may disclose TSCA CBI by specifically authorizing EPA to disclose TSCA CBI to state, tribal, and local governments; environmental, health, and medical professionals; and emergency responders, under certain conditions, including consistency with guidance that EPA is required to develop. The draft guidance documents are:
EPA’s prepublication version of the notice of availability of the draft guidance states the conditions for access vary under each of the new provisions, but generally include the following: requesters must show that they have a need for the information related to their employment, professional, or legal duties; recipients of TSCA CBI are prohibited from disclosing or permitting further disclosure of the information to individuals not authorized to receive it (physicians/nurses may disclose the information to their patient); and, except in emergency situations, EPA must notify the entity that made the CBI claim at least 15 days prior to disclosing the CBI. In addition, under these new provisions, requesters (except in some emergency situations) are required to sign an agreement and may be required to submit a statement of need to EPA. In accordance with the requirements of TSCA section 14(c)(4)(B), each guidance document covers the content and form of the agreements and statements required under each provision and include information on where and how to submit requests to EPA. A 30-day comment period for the draft guidance documents will open upon the notice’s publication in the Federal Register; comments can be submitted to docket EPA-HQ-OPPT-2017-0652 via www.regulations.gov.
On March 12, 2018, EPA also announced that it collecting comments on burden and other information required by the Paperwork Reduction Act related to these documents in the form of an Information Collection Request (ICR), as detailed in a separate notice. 83 Fed. Reg. 10719. Comments on the ICR are due May 11, 2018. EPA states that it anticipates using comments received in response to the guidance document notice and the ICR notice to inform the development of final guidance documents, which it anticipates to be released in June 2018.
On March 9, 2018, as a first step in developing a proposed rule regulating certain persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic (PBT) chemicals, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it is seeking nominations for individuals who represent small businesses, small governments, and small non-for-profit organizations to serve as Small Entity Representatives (SER) to provide input on potential impacts of PBT regulation. EPA states the role of a SER is “to provide advice and recommendations to ensure that the Panel carefully considers small entity concerns regarding the impact of the potential rule on their organizations and to communicate with other small entities within their sector who do not serve as SERs,” and will ask the SERs to provide comments on behalf of their company, community, or organization and advise a soon to be created Small Business Advocacy Review (SBAR) panel regarding potential impacts to small businesses that could result from the regulation of certain identified PBTs. The SBAR panel will include federal representatives from EPA, the Small Business Administration, and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). After collecting input from the small entities, the panel will make recommendations to the Agency on the development of a proposed rule to regulate these PBT chemicals.
Under Section 6(h) of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), EPA is required, not later than three years after the date of enactment (June 22, 2019), to propose rules regarding the regulation of certain PBTs selected from the 2014 update of the TSCA Work Plan for Chemical Assessments that: (1) EPA has a reasonable basis to conclude are toxic and that with respect to persistence and bioaccumulation score high for one and either high or moderate for the other have been identified; and (2) exposure to which under the conditions of use is likely to the general population or to a potentially exposed or susceptible subpopulation identified by the Administrator, or the environment, on the basis of an exposure and use assessment conducted by the Administrator. The PBT chemicals that EPA has selected are:
The Regulatory Flexibility Act requires agencies to establish a SBAR panel for rules that may have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities. EPA states that the panel process will offer “an opportunity for small businesses, small governments and small not-for-profit organizations … to provide advice and recommendations to ensure that the EPA carefully considers small entity concerns regarding the impact of the potential rule on their organizations.”
EPA states eligible SERs are small entities that manufacture, process, distribute in commerce, use, or dispose any of the five selected PBT chemicals. EPA is seeking self-nominations directly from entities that may be subject to the rule requirements. Other representatives, such as trade associations that exclusively or at least primarily represent potentially regulated small entities, may also serve as SERs. Self-nominations may be submitted through the instructions outlined on EPA’s Potential SBAR Panel website and must be received by March 22, 2018. More information about the SBAR process is available online.
On March 6, 2018, in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) filed its Principal Brief in the litigation case that petitions for review the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) Inventory Notification (Active-Inactive) Requirements final rule (EDF v. EPA, No. 1701 (D.C. Cir.)).
EDF’s brief includes, among other required statements, a statement of the issues, a statement of the case, a summary of their argument, and their argument. EDF’s arguments are as follows:
EDF has done its usual thorough job and the brief is definitely a must read for TSCA stakeholders. More information on this proceeding and the other challenges to the TSCA framework final rules is available on our blog under key words framework rules.
On March 7, 2018, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a draft Strategic Plan to Promote the Development and Implementation of Alternative Test Methods to reduce the use of vertebrate animals in chemical testing, fulfilling another milestone under the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act that amended the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). Under amended TSCA, EPA is required to develop a strategy to promote the development and implementation of alternative test methods and strategies to reduce, refine or replace vertebrate animal testing by June 22, 2018. EPA states the draft document incorporates input from a November 2017 public meeting held on the development of the draft strategy, as well as written comments submitted after the meeting, and draws upon EPA research on test methods.
The draft strategy outlines EPA’s Strategic Plan for the reduction of testing in vertebrates for chemicals regulated under TSCA. The organizing framework for the EPA’s strategy to reduce vertebrate animal testing relies heavily on what have been termed new approach methodologies (NAM) -- a broadly descriptive reference to any nonanimal technology, methodology, approach, or combination thereof that can be used to provide information on chemical hazard and risk assessment. The strategy describes a multi-year process with incremental steps for adoption and integration of NAMs that are appropriate and fit-for-purpose for making TSCA decisions, and has three core components:
EPA states that completing these activities will result in moving towards four intermediate-term (three to five years) objectives and these time frames, needs, and activities provide the basis for developing NAMs, establishing reliability and relevance criteria for the NAMs, and implementing NAMs to inform decisions made under TSCA.
Comments on the draft strategy will be due 45 days after the notice of availability is published in the Federal Register. EPA has scheduled a public meeting to obtain input on the draft strategy for April 10, 2018, from 9:00 a.m. (EDT) to 5:00 p.m. (EDT) in Washington, D.C. Registration is available online and is requested by April 3, 2018.
On February 26, 2018, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published its proposed fees rule entitled User Fees for the Administration of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), as permissible under TSCA Section 26(b). 83 Fed. Reg. 8212. The rule as proposed will set user fees applicable to any person required to submit information to EPA under TSCA Section 4 or a notice, including an exemption or other information, to be reviewed by the Administrator under TSCA Section 5, or who manufactures (including imports) a chemical substance that is the subject of a risk evaluation under TSCA Section 6(b). The notice of proposed rulemaking provides a description of proposed TSCA fees and fee categories for fiscal years 2019, 2020, and 2021, and explains the methodology by which the proposed TSCA user fees were determined and would be determined for subsequent fiscal years. In proposing these new TSCA user fees, EPA also proposes amending long standing user fee regulations governing the review of premanufacture notices, exemption applications and notices, and significant new use notices. Comments on the proposed rule are due April 27, 2018.
An in-depth analysis prepared by Bergeson & Campbell, P.C. (B&C®) is available in our memorandum “Administrator Pruitt Signs TSCA User Fee Proposal.”
California District Court Vacates EPA Final Rule to Delay Compliance with Formaldehyde Emission Standards
On February 16, 2018, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California issued an order granting plaintiffs’, the Sierra Club and A Community Voice-Louisiana, motion for summary judgment. The court determined that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) final rule delaying the compliance date for the formaldehyde emission standards for composite wood products (Delay Rule) exceeded EPA’s authority under the Formaldehyde Standards in Composite Wood Products Act (Formaldehyde Act) codified as Title VI of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), vacated the Delay Rule, and set aside the year-long extension to December 12, 2018, of the compliance deadlines set out by EPA in the Delay Rule. Sierra Club v. Pruitt, Case No. 4:17-cv-06293. The Delay Rule, issued on September 25, 2017 (82 Fed. Reg. 44533), sought to extend further the compliance dates set out in its December 12, 2016, final rule that implemented the Formaldehyde Act (Formaldehyde Rule) (81 Fed. Reg. 89674), specifically: the December 12, 2017, manufactured-by date for emission standards, recordkeeping, and labeling provisions until December 12, 2018; the December 12, 2018, compliance date for import certification provisions until March 22, 2019; and the December 12, 2023, compliance date for provisions applicable to producers of laminated products until March 22, 2024.
As stated in the order, the Formaldehyde Act set out emission standards for domestically manufactured and imported composite wood products and directed EPA, by no later than July 1, 2013, to promulgate implementing regulations that would ensure compliance with the new emission standards; based on the Delay Rule’s further extension of deadlines, which sets both the manufacturing and emission standards compliance dates to December 12, 2018, EPA would have delayed the implementation for more than three years after the Formaldehyde Act had originally directed EPA to require compliance.
The order also denies defendant EPA’s cross-motion for summary judgment in which EPA states three arguments against plaintiffs’ motion: (1) plaintiffs’ challenge is waived, as plaintiffs did not comment on the proposed extension by raising the sole issue plaintiffs raise in their motion; (2) the statute upon which plaintiffs base their claim expressly provides for EPA to set the manufactured-by date more than 180 days from promulgation of the implementing regulations; and (3) EPA’s extension of the manufactured-by date was reasonable, supported by the record, and not arbitrary or capricious.
In its analysis, the court offered the following to support its holdings:
The court concluded that the issue of whether EPA should extend the deadline for compliance with the emission standards of the Formaldehyde Rule was adequately before it for consideration. The court stayed the order vacating the Delay Rule until the parties address the implementation of the compliance guidelines and the court directs them to provide, by March 9, 2018, a joint proposed submission or simultaneous briefing to address the timing for lifting the stay and expeditious implementation of the court’s order.
The ruling is one of several expected that will inform stakeholders on the scope of EPA’s authority under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) and the underlying Act at issue, here the Formaldehyde Act, in undoing Obama-era regulations and the extent of Agency discretion in deciding whether and to what extent such rules can be unilaterally delayed or eliminated entirely. The Trump Administration has in unprecedented ways sought to roll back rules under a host of laws, environmental and otherwise, in ways that detractors claim are illegal and contrary to the APA and other laws. Here, the court emphasized the Formaldehyde Act’s “expeditious” emission compliance standards and reasoned that the repeated delays were simply inconsistent with Congress’ intent.
More information on the Formaldehyde Act under TSCA is available on our blog.
On February 8, 2018, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced it is releasing a third alternative approach for assigning and applying unique identifiers (UID) to reconcile the competing requirements of Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) Section 14(g) for comment. 83 Fed. Reg. 5623. EPA’s first and second alternative approaches were released for comment in its notice on May 8, 2017 (82 Fed. Reg. 21386). Under amended TSCA, EPA is required to develop a system to assign a “unique identifier” whenever it approves a Confidential Business Information (CBI) claim for the specific chemical identity of a chemical substance, to apply this unique identifier to other information concerning the same substance, and to ensure that any non-confidential information received identifies the chemical substance using the unique identifier while the specific chemical identity of the chemical substance is protected from disclosure.
Under the third alternative approach, EPA would assign one UID per chemical substance. EPA states that in most cases it would apply the UID to all non-confidential information concerning the same chemical substance from any company except in cases where doing so might reveal the identity of confidential substance. In those cases, which EPA expects to be rare, EPA would not apply the UID to non-confidential documents if doing so would result in a linkage that undermines the CBI claim. EPA reiterates that the basic criterion for application of the UID to submissions made by different submitters is that EPA’s act of applying the UID must not disclose to the public the confidential specific chemical identity that the UID was assigned to protect.
Comments are due by March 12, 2018. More information on CBI under TSCA is available on our blog.
On February 8, 2018, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued the prepublication version of its long-anticipated fees rule under amended Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) Section 26(b) entitled User Fees for the Administration of the Toxic Substances Control Act. EPA states that the proposed rule will set user fees applicable to any person required to submit information to EPA under TSCA Section 4 or a notice, including an exemption or other information, to be reviewed by the Administrator under TSCA Section 5, or who manufactures (including imports) a chemical substance that is the subject of a risk evaluation under TSCA Section 6(b).
EPA’s notice of proposed rulemaking provides a description of proposed TSCA fees and fee categories for fiscal years 2019, 2020, and 2021, and explains the methodology by which the proposed TSCA user fees were determined and would be determined for subsequent fiscal years. In proposing these new TSCA user fees, the Agency also proposes amending long standing user fee regulations governing the review of premanufacture notices, exemption applications and notices, and significant new use notices.
EPA states the proposed fees on certain chemical manufacturers, including importers, would go towards developing risk evaluations for existing chemicals; collecting and reviewing toxicity and exposure data and information; reviewing Confidential Business Information (CBI); and making determinations regarding the safety of new chemicals before they enter the marketplace.
Comments on the proposed rule will be due 60 days after its publication in the Federal Register.
An in-depth analysis prepared by Bergeson & Campbell, P.C. (B&C®) will soon be available on our Regulatory Developments webpage.