By Lynn L. Bergeson and Margaret R. Graham
On May 1, 2017, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a notice in the Federal Register stating it was reopening and extending the comment period for two proposed rules: (1) to prohibit the use of trichloroethylene (TCE) in vapor degreasing; to require manufacturers (including importers), processors, and distributors, except for retailers, of TCE for any use to provide downstream notification of these prohibitions throughout the supply chain; and to require limited recordkeeping (issued January 19, 2017); and (2) to prohibit the manufacture (including import), processing, and distribution in commerce of methylene chloride and N-methylpyrrolidone (NMP) for consumer and most types of commercial paint and coating removal; to prohibit the use of methylene chloride and NMP in these commercial uses; to require manufacturers (including importers), processors, and distributors, except for retailers, of methylene chloride and NMP for any use to provide downstream notification of these prohibitions throughout the supply chain; and to require recordkeeping (issued January 19, 2017). 82 Fed. Reg. 20310.
This is the second extension of the comment period for the proposed rule to ban TCE use in vapor degreasing and the first extension of the comment period for the proposed rule to ban the uses of NMP and methylene chloride for consumer and most types of commercial paint and coating removal. Comments on both proposed rules are now due on May 19, 2017.
By Charles M. Auer, James V. Aidala, and Lynn L. Bergeson
On February 27, 2017, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced in a Federal Register notice that it was denying a Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) Section 21 petition that requested regulatory action under Section 6 to “prohibit the purposeful addition of fluoridation chemicals to U.S. water supplies,” and that it was making available its response to the petition. 82 Fed. Reg. 11878. The petition was received by EPA on November 23, 2016, and EPA had 90 days in which to respond by either granting or denying the requested action.
- EPA’s response was relatively comprehensive as it went through and provided its views on numerous aspects and issues at play including:
- EPA’s interpretation of the Section 6 provisions regarding conditions of use which asserts that TSCA requires EPA to comprehensively consider and address all conditions of use for a chemical or category of chemicals when considering and taking action under Section 6(a). This point was first made in EPA’s proposed procedural rule for risk evaluations (82 Fed. Reg. 7562, Jan. 19, 2017) that is currently open for comment.
- EPA’s belief that Congress, under the new law, did not intend to empower Section 21 petitioners for regulation under Section 6 to promote chemicals of particular concern and force expeditious action based on risks arising from individual uses of those chemicals (helpfully, in its response, EPA suggests use of a petition under the Administrative Procedure Act to the petitioners for such cases).
- The scientific adequacy of the petitioners’ risks claims for the general public from exposure to fluoridation chemicals in drinking water. EPA identified and discussed in some depth the numerous weaknesses it saw in health, exposure, and risk aspects.
- The petitioners’ inadequate consideration of the public health benefits of fluoridation of drinking water.
- Inadequate support by the petitioners for their belief that action was needed under TSCA rather than under the Safe Drinking Water Act, because of the latter’s purported limitations.
While comment could be offered on many of the points discussed in the decision, we limit our reactions to a few key points. The first is that, given all of the work that is at play under new TSCA, we are frankly surprised that EPA saw the need for such a detailed and comprehensive response to the petitioners. From our perspective, a much shorter and more focused response would have provided an adequate basis for the denial decision.
The second is the way that EPA used its response as a platform to advocate for its interpretation that Section 6 requires that EPA consider all conditions of use in proceeding under that Section. While this point was made in its proposed procedural rule for conducting risk evaluations, that rule was, as indicated, only a proposal and, moreover, it was issued under the prior Administration. This decision, however, because it can be legally challenged by the petitioners, equates to a judicially reviewable act as the petitioners may commence a civil action in federal district court to compel EPA to initiate a rulemaking as requested in the petition. Interesting, too, is the fact that the decision was issued under the new Trump Administration. Given that the response was signed less than a month after the Inauguration, we do not want to over-interpret its significance (perhaps EPA was merely “reiterating” rather than “advocating” its position of record). We also note in passing that it was signed on the same day that the new Administrator was sworn in (February 17).
EPA’s response in this case is expansive and detailed, not only with respect to what EPA concluded the claimed risks of fluoride to be, but also regarding the considerable detail on what the agency apparently has concluded are required elements to qualify as sufficient to grant a Section 21 petition for TSCA Section 6(a) action in the future. The granularity of the discussion is extraordinary.
That EPA disagreed over the possible risks of fluoride is not the most interesting part of the notice. EPA’s response includes what in essence is the following argument about what is required to make a Section 21 argument that EPA can grant: the petition must include a complete risk evaluation, including an analysis of all conditions of use, showing how the TSCA risk standard is exceeded, before EPA would grant the petition.
EPA explicitly states, for example, that if a petition showed that a chemical use clearly exceeds the TSCA risk standard, and did not include all the conditions of use, EPA would still deny the petition to initiate action to control the risk. The notice states (at 11880):
- EPA recognizes that information on a single condition of use, could, in certain instances, suffice to demonstrate that a chemical substance, as a whole, presents an unreasonable risk. Nonetheless, EPA concludes that such information does not fulfill a petitioner’s burden to justify “a rule under [TSCA Section 6],” under TSCA Section 21, since the information would merely justify a subset of an adequate rule.”
So even if a chemical use is shown to cause great harm, it would not merit EPA granting the petition since it is not a complete risk evaluation as EPA wishes to define it. The notice explains EPA’s rationale for this position, essentially arguing that since EPA must assess “all conditions of use” in any control rule they might promulgate, then any outside petition must include all of the same homework before it can be granted.
This seems to obviate the very purpose of Section 21 petitions for Section 6 action, which in the past has been viewed as one way for the public to identify risks of concern to EPA which, for whatever reason, may not be on EPA’s radar. This asserted view, that only a comprehensive risk evaluation considering all conditions of use will suffice, presents a very high threshold for action -- and seemingly an impossibly high threshold to move EPA to act.
The petitioners in this case may decide to challenge the EPA decision. Activists concerned about the possible risks of fluoride have in the past been persistent and dogged about their cause. In this decision, however, there is potentially more than a disagreement over possible risks of fluoride; there might also be arguments over what is or is not sufficient for Section 21 petitions to be granted, or possibly about EPA’s general interpretation, as elaborated in the denial notice and in the risk evaluation procedural rule, that new TSCA does not provide discretion for EPA to evaluate less than all conditions of use in new actions under Section 6.
By Lynn L. Bergeson and Margaret R. Graham
On February 9, 2017, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued its 2017 Annual Report on Risk Evaluations. Per Section 26(n)(2) of the amended Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), EPA is directed to publish an annual plan at the beginning of each calendar year identifying the chemical substances that will undergo risk evaluations during that year – both risk evaluations that will be initiated and that will be completed -- the resources necessary for completion, and the status and schedule for ongoing evaluations.
Per amended TSCA Section 6(b)(4), on December 19, 2016, EPA designated ten chemical substances for evaluation to determine whether they presented an unreasonable risk of injury to health or the environment. Those chemicals are:
- 1, 4 Dioxane;
- Methylene Chloride;
- Pigment Violet 29;
- Carbon Tetrachloride;
- Cyclic Aliphatic Bromide Cluster (HBCD); and
The report provides an update pertaining to the risk evaluations of these ten chemicals. Risk evaluations on these chemicals have already begun, and EPA anticipates issuing a scoping document for each of them by June 19, 2017. The scoping document will include “the hazard(s), exposure(s), condition(s) of use, and the potentially exposed or susceptible subpopulation(s) the Administrator expects to consider in the evaluation.” EPA has established a docket for each of the ten chemicals and is holding a public meeting on February 14, 2017, to present information on the specific uses and conditions of use for the chemicals. EPA is currently accepting written comments and materials in the individual dockets until March 15, 2017.
Under Section 6(4)(G) of TSCA, EPA is required to complete these risk evaluations within three to three and a half years. EPA’s initial report to Congress issued on January 18, 2017, detailed the resources it needed for completion of the risk evaluations.
More information on EPA’s proposed processes for prioritizing and evaluating chemicals beyond these first ten is available in our memoranda EPA Proposes Procedures to Prioritize Chemicals for Risk Evaluation under TSCA and EPA Releases Proposed Chemical Risk Evaluation Process under New TSCA.
By Lynn L. Bergeson, Charles M. Auer, and Margaret R. Graham
On December 7, 2016, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced it would be issuing a rule proposing to prohibit the manufacture, processing, and distribution in commerce of trichloroethylene (TCE) for certain uses under Section 6 of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), due to its determination that there are significant health risks associated with TCE use in aerosol degreasing and for spot cleaning in dry cleaning facilities. The proposed action is significant for several reasons, including that it represents the first use in a very long time of TSCA Section 6 as well as the first Section 6 control action taken under new TSCA. Specifically, EPA is proposing to prohibit the use of TCE in “aerosol degreasing and for use in spot cleaning in dry cleaning facilities; to prohibit commercial use of TCE for aerosol degreasing and for spot cleaning in dry cleaning facilities; to require manufacturers, processors, and distributors, except for retailers of TCE for any use, to provide downstream notification of these prohibitions throughout the supply chain; and to require limited recordkeeping.” We look forward to a close reading of the proposed rule and to evaluating the arguments, the policy points, and the evidence provided by EPA to satisfy the various legal requirements, including those under Section 6(c) and Section 26.
EPA’s online Fact Sheet on TCE lists questions and answers as related to the proposed rule. In response to Question 3, What are the potential risks of TCE to people?, EPA states that its 2014 risk assessment found TCE to be “carcinogenic to people through all routes of exposure, which include inhalation, dermal (skin), and ingestion.” The pre-publication of the proposed rule is available on EPA’s website. Once it has been published in the Federal Register, comments must be submitted within 60 days of publication.
Bergeson & Campbell, P.C. (B&C®) Managing Partner Lynn L. Bergeson and Senior Policy and Regulatory Advisor Charles M. Auer have recently published two articles on important issues as related to the amended Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA):
The concept of “conditions of use” plays an important role in TSCA as amended by the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act. Conditions of use is a centralizing concept under which the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) determines how a chemical is made, processed, used, and disposed. The term is defined in TSCA Section 3 and also appears one or more times in the following Sections: 5, 6, 9, 14, 18, 21, and 26. The term is not used in Sections 4 and 8. B&C’s BNA article explores the use and application of conditions of use under Sections 5 and 6 and provides insights into the implications of what may be its unusual use in Section 5 in comparison to Section 6.
Among its other requirements and authorities, Section 5 of new TSCA generally requires that a company timely submit to EPA a notice of its intent to manufacture or process a new chemical or significant new use (NC/SNU). EPA is then required to conduct a review of the Section 5(a)(1) notice and make a determination on the NC/SNU and take required additional actions. Questions have been raised as to whether the review period is fixed and requires that EPA determinations and actions be completed within that period, or if the statute can be read to permit a more flexible review period along the lines of how it was interpreted and applied in old TSCA with the use of voluntary suspensions. Charles M. Auer and Lynn L. Bergeson’s September ABA article analyzes that question.
Other B&C articles on amended TSCA and other regulatory issues of interest are available on our website.