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 June 3, 2020, the American Coatings Association (ACA), National Association of Manufacturers, Toy Association, National Association of Home Builders, and U.S. Chamber of Commerce petitioned the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to develop a risk management procedural rule under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).  According to ACA’s June 15, 2020, press release, ACA “believes that a procedural rule would provide guard rails to ensure consistency, transparency and effective public communication in developing risk mitigation requirements for companies following EPA completion of a Risk Evaluation under TSCA.”  ACA states that a procedural rule “is needed to establish a central point of reference for all requirements and considerations involved in crafting a risk management rule regulating a specific chemical.”  The petitioners ask EPA to implement an updated risk management procedural rule addressing considerations under the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act (Lautenberg Act).  According to the press release, the petition lists and describes various risk mitigation considerations under the Lautenberg Act’s framework that should be addressed in a procedural rule, including considerations related to transparency, deadlines for compliance, notice, effective dates, exemptions for critical or essential use, coordination with and/or delegation to other agencies, and processes to amend a risk mitigation rule.  ACA states that EPA has 90 days from filing to grant or deny the petition.  If EPA grants the petition, EPA can enter into a public rulemaking process, as requested by petitioners, though it is not required to do so.  ACA notes that while the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) provides that “rules of agency organization, procedure, or practice” are exempt from notice and comment requirements, “petitioners believe that EPA should publish the requested section 6 risk management procedural rule for notice and comment because the information and opinions supplied by the public will inform the Agency’s views.”


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
 
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published a Federal Register notice on June 24, 2020, announcing the availability of the final Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) risk evaluation for methylene chloride.  85 Fed. Reg. 37942.  This is the first risk evaluation that EPA has completed under the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act (Lautenberg Act) amendments to TSCA.  After evaluating 53 conditions of use of methylene chloride, EPA determined that six conditions of use do not present an unreasonable risk of injury to health, while 47 present an unreasonable risk.  EPA also determined that methylene chloride does not present an unreasonable risk to the environment under the conditions of use.  In its June 19, 2020, press release, EPA notes that the next step in the process required by TSCA is addressing the identified risks.  According to EPA, there are several actions it could take to address these risks, including regulations to prohibit or limit the manufacture, processing, distribution in the marketplace, use, or disposal of this chemical substance, as applicable.  EPA will now begin the process of developing ways to address the unreasonable risks identified and has up to one year to propose and take public comments on any risk management actions.  EPA states that as with any chemical product, it “strongly recommends that users continue to carefully follow all instructions on the product’s label/safety data sheet.”  As reported in our November 22, 2019, blog item, EPA’s March 27, 2019, final regulation prohibited the manufacture (including import), processing, and distribution of methylene chloride in all paint removers for consumer use after November 22, 2019.  More information on the final risk evaluation for methylene chloride will be available in a forthcoming memorandum that will be posted on our website.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson, Carla N. Hutton, and Holly M. Williams

During the week of June 15, 2020, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California heard from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) final three witnesses:  Dr. Joyce Tsuji, Dr. Ellen Chang, and Dr. Tala Henry.  Food & Water Watch, Inc. v. EPA, Case No. 3:17-cv-02162-EMC.  Dr. Tsuji did not dispute that fluoride can be a neurotoxin at “high enough levels.”  Dr. Tsuji contended that the scientific literature remains too limited to establish linkage between fluoride and adverse health outcomes.  Dr. Chang testified on the application of systematic review to chemical usage, a process EPA explored at length with its first witness, Dr. Kris Thayer, as reported in our June 12, 2020, blog item.

Dr. Henry defended the EPA Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics’ (OPPT) decision to deny plaintiffs’ Section 21 petition.  As Director of EPA's Risk Assessment Division, Dr. Henry expressed the view that “robust science” warranted rejection of the petition.  On June 17, 2020, plaintiffs called back Dr. Kathleen Thiessen as a rebuttal witness, who testified briefly in response to the criticism by EPA’s witnesses of plaintiffs’ methodology in studies mentioned earlier in the trial. After Dr. Thiessen’s testimony, the trial moved to closing arguments.

Plaintiffs’ closing argument asserted that EPA failed to quantify what fluoride levels were dangerous to humans.  District Judge Edward M. Chen interceded to inquire in this regard as tests showing neurotoxicity were well above the level in fluoridation chemicals introduced into water.  Plaintiffs argued the necessity of taking into account inter-species differences from animal testing, as well as human-to-human differences.  Plaintiffs stated that this lack of data seriously hinders determining at what level susceptibility can be found.

EPA responded in its closing that studies relied on by plaintiffs are limited by confounding variables, lack of comparison groups, and double-blind methodologies.  Additionally, EPA noted inconsistencies among the reports plaintiffs cited.  Judge Chen followed up with questions regarding the counter-intuitive findings of effects from fluoride exposure in adult rats but not infants and wanted to confirm if this was a byproduct of the quality of research.  EPA replied that there is insufficient evidence to defend an IQ-urine connection.  Judge Chen also asked if the court could find unreasonable risk from the chemical used by EPA without causation of neurological effects. EPA responded that the only standard provided in the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) regarding unreasonable risk is that which results from an evaluation of that risk, not causation.

After hearing closing arguments, Judge Chen noted that the evidence presented by both parties was not confined to the administrative record and that he allowed both parties to use evidence that was available after plaintiffs filed their petition in 2016 Judge Chen asked plaintiffs and EPA to consider how to reach an agreement, including plaintiffs submitting a new petition or EPA reconsidering its denial of the petition.  Pending Judge Chen's request for additional briefing, there was no ruling on what could potentially be the first half of a bifurcated trial.  A status conference is tentatively scheduled for August 6, 2020, at 10:30 a.m. (PDT).


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
 
The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) will hold a public webinar on July 1, 2020, to receive information from interested parties about changes to CPSC’s Publicly Available Consumer Product Safety Information Database, www.SaferProducts.gov, that are in development to improve the website’s usefulness and navigability.  CPSC states in its June 18, 2020, Federal Register notice that based, in part, on input from a March 2019 public hearing, CPSC is holding the webinar to show the changes to the website that are in development.  85 Fed. Reg. 36838.  According to CPSC, these changes seek to improve usability and navigability on the website; make the website more mobile friendly with other devices, including smartphones and tablets; and improve cross-browser compatibility.  Participants who register for the webinar will have an opportunity to see these changes and provide feedback to CPSC through a moderated discussion.  All attendees should pre-register for the webinar.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
 
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced on June 12, 2020, that it is opening a public comment period for a manufacturer-requested risk evaluation of octamethylcyclotetra-siloxane (D4), a chemical used to make other silicone chemicals and as an ingredient in some personal care products.  EPA states that the manufacturer-requested risk evaluation of D4 is the third evaluation of this kind to be requested under the amended Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).  EPA will publish a notice in the Federal Register announcing the public comment period and beginning a 45-day comment period.  EPA “welcomes all public comments on this request, particularly on the following”:

  • Any information not included in the manufacturer request that the commenters believe EPA would need to conduct a risk evaluation;
  • Additional conditions of use the Agency is proposing to include in the risk evaluation; and
  • Information on conditions of use not included in the manufacturer request or in the additional conditions of use EPA is proposing to include in the risk evaluation.

After the comment period closes, EPA will review the comments and either grant or deny the request to conduct a risk evaluation within 60 days.  If EPA grants the request, the manufacturers would be responsible for half the cost of the risk evaluation.  EPA has opened Docket ID EPA-HQ-OPPT-2018-0443 for the request.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson, Carla N. Hutton, and Holly M. Williams

The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California began hearing oral arguments on June 8, 2020, in a case seeking a rulemaking under Section 6 of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) to prohibit the addition of fluoridation chemicals to drinking water supplies.  Food & Water Watch, Inc. v. EPA, Case No. 3:17-cv-02162-EMC.  The plaintiffs filed suit following the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) denial of a TSCA Section 21 petition requesting it to exercise its Section 6 authority to prohibit the purposeful addition of fluoridation chemicals to U.S. water supplies.  On June 12, 2020, Dr. Kathleen M. Thiessen testified as the final witness for the plaintiffs’ case-in-chief regarding risk analysis to determine a level of fluoride that does not produce adverse effects.  Thiessen also testified about a study that found correlation between fluoride intake and diminished thyroid productivity.  EPA’s first witness, Dr. Kristina Thayer, clarified the types of experimental biases and processes to vet bodies of evidence.  Earlier in the week, plaintiffs’ expert witnesses summarized the scientific literature on the adverse effects of fluoride on children’s development, including lowered IQ.  The experts have cited both animal and human studies.  EPA has questioned them at length regarding the discrepancies between male and female test subjects, especially in relation to prenatal fluoride exposure.  EPA has argued that the data presented by plaintiffs suffers from inconsistencies, flawed methodologies, and biases.  The trial will resume on Monday, June 15, 2020.  Readers interested in watching the trial remotely can find scheduling and Zoom information here.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
 
On June 3, 2020, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) submitted to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) a final significant new use rule (SNUR) on long-chain perfluoroalkyl carboxylate (LCPFAC) and perfluoroalkyl sulfonate (PFAS) chemical substances.  On March 3, 2020, EPA published a proposed supplemental SNUR for LCPFAC chemical substances that would make inapplicable the exemption for persons who import a subset of LCPFAC chemical substances as part of surface coatings on articles.  85 Fed. Reg. 12479.  Under the proposed supplemental SNUR, issued under Section 5(a)(2) of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), this subset of LCPFAC chemical substances also includes the salts and precursors of these perfluorinated carboxylates.  The supplemental proposal would require importers to notify EPA at least 90 days before commencing the import of these chemical substances in certain articles for the significant new use described in the proposed SNUR.  The required significant new use notification would initiate EPA’s evaluation of the conditions of use associated with the intended significant new use.  Manufacturing (including import) or processing for the significant new use would be prohibited from commencing until EPA has conducted a review of the notice, made an appropriate determination on the notice, and taken such actions as are required in association with that determination.  As noted in our February 28, 2020, memorandum, “Proposed Supplemental SNUR Would Remove Exemption for LCPFAC Chemical Substances Used as Surface Coatings on Articles,” one of the goals of the proposed supplemental SNUR is to establish the ground rules for EPA’s consideration of the article exemption in future SNUR actions.  The final SNUR that is under OMB review is not publicly available, so it remains to be seen whether EPA has successfully established policies and procedures that both align with statutory requirements and also are workable, effective, predictable, transparent, and justified scientifically.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
 
On May 20, 2020, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Office of Inspector General (OIG) released a report entitled Further Efforts Needed to Uphold Scientific Integrity Policy at EPA.  OIG conducted an Agency-wide survey to determine whether EPA’s Scientific Integrity Policy is being implemented as intended to ensure scientific integrity throughout EPA.  OIG received 4,320 responses (a 23.5 percent response rate), showing that 3,987 respondents were aware of or had some familiarity with the Scientific Integrity Policy.  According to OIG, among those respondents with a basis to judge, the majority (56 percent; 1,025 of 1,842) were satisfied with the overall implementation of the Policy.  OIG states that the survey also revealed some concerns with specific aspects of scientific integrity at EPA, including dissatisfaction with EPA’s culture of scientific integrity (59 percent; 1,425 of 2,402) and the release of scientific information to the public (57 percent; 1,049 of 1,842).  OIG recommends that EPA’s deputy administrator lead an effort to examine the causes associated with the scientific integrity concerns identified in the survey and communicate the results to EPA employees, including planned actions to address the causes.  OIG also made 11 recommendations to the EPA science advisor, including developing procedures for addressing and resolving allegations of scientific integrity violations, communicating the outcomes of reports of scientific integrity violations, and improving the release of scientific information to the public.  OIG states that EPA agreed with its recommendations and provided acceptable corrective actions.  According to OIG, EPA has completed two recommendations, and the others are resolved with corrective actions pending.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published a Federal Register notice on May 28, 2020, extending the comment and reporting period on the preliminary lists of manufacturers (including importers) subject to fees associated with EPA-initiated risk evaluations under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).  85 Fed. Reg. 32036.  The new due date is June 15, 2020.  EPA states that it is extending the comment period in response to stakeholder feedback and to allow companies additional time to report, or self-identify, as to whether they are a manufacturer subject to fees for the next 20 TSCA risk evaluations.  EPA intends to issue final scope documents for the next 20 risk evaluations in summer 2020 and will publish the final list of fee payers no later than concurrently with the final scope documents.

EPA held a conference call on TSCA fees on April 16, 2020, and posted the slides and transcript for the call.  EPA’s web page on TSCA fees for EPA-initiated risk evaluations includes frequently asked questions.  Our March 2, 2020, memorandum, “The Essential Value of Forming TSCA Consortia,” provides information on forming a consortium.  More information on the 20 substances designated as high-priority substances is available in our December 20, 2019, memorandum, “Final List of High-Priority Chemicals Will Be Next to Undergo Risk Evaluation under TSCA.”


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
 
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently published its 2020 Annual Plan for Chemical Risk Evaluations under TSCA (Annual Plan).  Section 26(n) of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) requires EPA to publish an annual plan at the beginning of each calendar year that identifies the chemical substances for which EPA expects to initiate or complete risk evaluations that year and the resources necessary for their completion, describes the status of each risk evaluation that has been initiated but not yet completed, and includes an updated schedule for completion of risk evaluations, if appropriate.  The Annual Plan states that in fiscal year (FY) 2020, EPA intends to complete final risk evaluations for the first ten chemicals.  As reported in our April 7 and April 20, 2020, blog items, EPA has published the draft scope documents for the risk evaluations to be conducted for the 20 high-priority substances designated in December 2019.  According to the Annual Plan, EPA expects to issue final draft scope documents in June 2020.  In accordance with statutory timelines, EPA states that it will publish final risk evaluations within three years of initiation, with a possible six-month extension.  In May 2019, EPA received manufacturer requests to conduct risk evaluations of diisodecyl phthalate (DIDP) and diisononyl phthalate (DINP).  EPA expects to release draft scope documents in the third quarter of FY 2020, complying with statutory timelines.  In March 2020, EPA received a facially complete manufacturer request to conduct a risk evaluation on octamethylcyclotetrasiloxane (D4).  EPA expects to ask for public comment on this request and make a final determination as to whether to grant this request within FY 2020.  EPA notes that it may receive additional requests in FY 2020 and will conduct the process to review these requests as directed in the Risk Evaluation Process Rule.  TSCA requires EPA to review fees and consider updating the fees rule every three years to ensure fees are adequate to defray 25 percent of the costs for implementing TSCA Sections 4, 5, 6, and 14, and to consult with stakeholders again if fees change.  In 2020, EPA expects to begin this process to review fees and propose certain exemptions to the current rule’s self-identification requirements associated with EPA-initiated risk evaluations for manufacturers that import the chemical substance in an article, produce the chemical substance as a byproduct, and produce or import the chemical substance as an impurity.


 
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