By Lynn L. Bergeson, Charles M. Auer, and Margaret R. Graham
On January 14, 2019, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Vermont, the Vermont Public Interest Group; Safer Chemicals, Health Families; and two individuals (plaintiffs) followed up on their earlier notice of intent to sue and filed a complaint against Andrew Wheeler and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to compel EPA to perform its “mandatory duty” to “address the serious and imminent threat to human health presented by paint removal products containing methylene chloride.” Plaintiffs bring the action under Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) Section 20(a) which states that “any person may commence a civil action … against the Administrator to compel the Administrator to perform any act or duty under this Act which is not discretionary.” Plaintiffs allege that EPA has not performed its mandatory duty under TSCA Sections 6(a) and 7. TSCA Section 6(a) gives EPA the authority to regulate substances that present “an unreasonable risk of injury to health or the environment” and TSCA Section 7 gives EPA the authority to commence civil actions for seizure and/or relief of “imminent hazards.” Plaintiffs’ argument to direct EPA to ban methylene chloride is centered on the issue of risk to human health only, however, stating that it presents “an unreasonable risk to human health” as confirmed by EPA. Under TSCA Section 20(b)(2), plaintiffs are required to submit a notice of intent to sue 60 days prior to filing a complaint which they did on October 31, 2018.
On January 19, 2017, EPA issued a proposed rule under TSCA Section 6 to prohibit the manufacture (including import), processing, and distribution in commerce of methylene chloride for consumer and most types of commercial paint and coating removal (82 Fed. Reg. 7464). EPA also proposed to prohibit the use of methylene chloride in these commercial uses; to require manufacturers (including importers), processors, and distributors, except for retailers, of methylene chloride for any use to provide downstream notification of these prohibitions throughout the supply chain; and to require recordkeeping. EPA relied on a risk assessment of methylene chloride published in 2014, the scope of which EPA stated included “consumer and commercial paint and coating removal.” The proposed rule stated that in the risk assessment, EPA identified risks from inhalation exposure including “neurological effects such as cognitive impairment, sensory impairment, dizziness, incapacitation, and loss of consciousness (leading to risks of falls, concussion, and other injuries)” and, based on EPA’s analysis of worker and consumer populations' exposures to methylene chloride in paint and coating removal, EPA proposed “a determination that methylene chloride and NMP in paint and coating removal present an unreasonable risk to human health.” The comment period on the proposed rule was extended several times, ending in May 2017, and in September 2017 EPA held a workshop to help inform EPA’s understanding of methylene chloride use in furniture refinishing.
No further action was taken to issue the rule in final, however, until December 21, 2018, when EPA sent the final rule to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for review. On the same day, EPA also sent another rule to OMB for review titled “Methylene Chloride; Commercial Paint and Coating Removal Training, Certification and Limited Access Program,” which has not previously been included in EPA’s Regulatory Agenda; very little is known about this rule. Plaintiffs do not refer to it in the complaint but there is speculation, based on its title, that this second rule may allow for some commercial uses of methylene chloride.
We recall the lawsuit filed by the Natural Resources Defense Counsel (NRDC) in 2018 challenging EPA’s draft New Chemicals Decision-Making Framework document as a final rule. The current action further reflects the commitment of detractors of EPA to use the courts and every other means available to oppose the Administration’s TSCA implementation efforts. Whether and when this court will respond is unclear. What is clear is that the case will be closely watched, as the outcome will be an important signal to the TSCA stakeholder community regarding the utility of TSCA Section 20(a)(2) to force non-discretionary EPA actions that the Administration may be disinclined to take.
By Lynn L. Bergeson and Margaret R. Graham
On December 31, 2018, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), even though they had already shut down due to funding issues, announced that if the government shutdown continues through 5:00 p.m. (EST) January 4, 2019, the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) Science Advisory Committee on Chemicals’ (SACC) January 8, 2019, Preparatory Virtual Meeting for the January 29 through February 1, 2019, meeting on Colour Index (C.I.) Pigment Violet 29 will be cancelled, and discussion of charge questions will be folded into the face-to-face meeting scheduled for January 29 through February 1, 2019. Further, if the shutdown continues through 5:00 p.m. (EST) January 11, 2019, the TSCA SACC’s January 29 through February 1, 2019, Peer Review of the draft risk evaluation for C.I. Pigment Violet 29 will be postponed. More information on the draft risk evaluation of C.I. Pigment Violet 29 is available in our memorandum EPA Publishes First Draft TSCA Chemical Risk Evaluation.
By Lynn L. Bergeson and Margaret R. Graham
On December 18, 2018, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit (Ninth Circuit) issued an order granting in part respondent U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) motion for partial voluntary remand of certain provisions of its final rule on Procedures for Chemicals Risk Evaluation under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). Specifically, EPA’s motion for partial voluntary remand, filed August 6, 2018, sought remand with vacatur of 40 C.F.R. Section 702.31(d) (Penalty Provision) and remand without vacatur of 40 C.F.R. Sections 702.37(b)(4) (Relevancy Provision) and 702.37(b)(6) (Consistency Provision). The Ninth Circuit granted EPA’s motion to remand and to vacate the Penalty Provision, but referred EPA’s motion to remand without vacatur for the Relevancy and Consistency Provisions. The Penalty Provision states that “[s]ubmission to EPA of inaccurate, incomplete, or misleading information pursuant to a risk evaluation … is a prohibited act … subject to penalties.”
EPA stated in its motion that its “request to remand the Penalty, Relevancy, and Consistency provisions is reasonable, timely, and will serve the interests of judicial economy,” but it has not yet decided on a specific course of action. EPA sought remand to address the potential concerns that petitioners stated in their opening brief. EPA stated that vacatur was only appropriate for the Penalty Provision, however, as “nothing in the proposed rule or rulemaking record gave any indication that EPA was contemplating extending the Penalty Provision beyond manufacturers, and EPA did not purport to make that change in response to public comments, the Penalty Provision is not a logical outgrowth of the proposed rule.”
As for the Relevancy and Consistency Provisions, EPA stated that they should be remanded but not vacated for the following reasons:
- EPA believes that the concerns about these provisions can be addressed through modifications to the language of the regulations;
- The unintended consequences of the Relevancy and Consistency Provisions that Petitioners allege are not serious; even if a manufacturer were to rely on those provisions to withhold information, EPA has independent authority to collect that information or require development of new information as needed to conduct its risk evaluations; and
- The disruptive effects to EPA could be considerable if these regulations were vacated while EPA completes its remand process; if the provisions are vacated, manufacturers could (intentionally or unintentionally) submit junk science or irrelevant material, requiring EPA to consume limited resources and take time out of the statutorily-mandated schedule to review the information. Further, vacatur of the Relevancy Provision would be particularly disruptive because it would eliminate altogether the affirmative requirement for manufacturers to submit lists of information when requesting risk evaluations; and could delay EPA’s information gathering if it had to request or order such information from the outset.
More information on the appeals to the TSCA framework rule on risk evaluation is available on our blog.
By Lynn L. Bergeson and Margaret R. Graham
On November 29, 2019, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it has scheduled the first public meetings of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) Science Advisory Committee on Chemicals (SACC). The first meeting, a preparatory virtual meeting, and will be held on January 8, 2019, from 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. (EST). The second meeting, a four-day in-person meeting, will be held on January 29, 2019, from 1:00 p.m. (EST) to 5:30 p.m. and on January 30, 31, and February 1, 2019, from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. (EST). The official announcement is scheduled to be published in the Federal Register on November 30, 2018. Further information, including the location of the in-person meeting and how to register, will be posted on EPA’s TSCA Scientific Peer Review Committees website.
The topic for this first series of meetings is the peer review of the draft risk evaluation for Colour Index (C.I.) Pigment Violet 29 and associated documents developed under EPA’s existing chemical substance process under TSCA. EPA states that the two-hour preparatory virtual meeting on January 8, 2019, will consider the scope and clarity of the draft charge questions for this peer review -- included with EPA’s Transmission of Background Materials and Charge to the Panel for the TSCA SACC Reviewing the Draft Risk Evaluation for C.I. Pigment Violet 29 (Attachment 23). The 4-day, in-person, public meeting will be comprised of the peer review panel deliberations and a general TSCA orientation for the TSCA SACC. A portion of the in-person meeting will be closed to the public, however, for the discussion of information claimed as confidential business information (CBI).
During these upcoming meetings, EPA states that the public is invited to provide oral comments for the peer review on the draft risk evaluation for C.I. Pigment Violet 29 and related documents; comments submitted by January 14, 2019, on the draft risk evaluation will be provided to the peer review panel members before the in-person meeting. Comments on the draft charge questions will be accepted prior to and during the 2-hour preparatory virtual meeting (but preferably by January 7, 2019); the TSCA SACC peer review panel will consider these comments during their discussions.
More information on the draft risk evaluation for C.I. Pigment Violet 29 is available in our memorandum EPA Publishes First Draft TSCA Chemical Risk Evaluation.
By Lynn L. Bergeson, Charles M. Auer, Oscar Hernandez, Ph.D., and Carla N. Hutton
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published a Federal Register notice on November 15, 2018, announcing the availability of and seeking public comment on the first draft chemical risk evaluation under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), as amended by the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act (Lautenberg). The draft risk evaluation for Colour Index (C.I.) Pigment Violet 29 is intended to determine whether C.I. Pigment Violet 29 presents an unreasonable risk to health or the environment under the conditions of use, including an unreasonable risk to a relevant potentially exposed or susceptible subpopulation. According to the notice, EPA is also submitting these same documents to the TSCA Science Advisory Committee on Chemicals (SACC) to peer review the draft risk evaluation. EPA intends to publish a separate Federal Register notice containing the peer review meeting details. Comments on the draft risk evaluation are due January 14, 2019. EPA will provide all comments submitted on the draft risk evaluation to the TSCA SACC peer review panel, which will have the opportunity to consider the comments during its discussions. More information is available in the full memorandum.
By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
On August 29, 2018, the Democrats on the House Committee on Energy and Commerce issued a press release announcing that they have renewed their request for a hearing on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) implementation of the amendments made by the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act to the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). The Democrats note this is the fourth request they have made for hearings to be held on EPA’s management of toxic chemicals. According to the press release, the Democrats “remain concerned that EPA’s implementation of the reformed TSCA program contradicts the new law’s language and intent and undermines public confidence in the program.” The press release states that the Democrats “are concerned that EPA is ignoring its own scientific evidence and the recommendations of its experienced career staff regarding TSCA implementation at the expense of public health. They point to a recent report from the New York Times that found EPA officials proposed a rulemaking to review applications for use of asbestos in consumer products over the objections of EPA attorneys and scientists.” The Democrats “also charge that EPA has abandoned its statutory mandate to review all new and existing chemicals known or foreseeable uses and exposure putting human health and the environment at risk,” possibly resulting in an incomplete evaluation of the health and environmental risk of a number of “extremely toxic chemicals, including asbestos, perchloroethylene (PERC), methylene chloride, and trichloroethylene (TCE).” The letter was signed by Ranking Member Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), Environment Subcommittee Ranking Member Paul Tonko (D-NY), Raul Ruiz (D-CA), Scott Peters (D-CA), Gene Green (D-TX), Diana DeGette (D-CO), Jerry McNerney (D-CA), Tony Cardenas (D-CA), Debbie Dingell (D-MI), and Doris Matsui (D-CA).
By Lynn L. Bergeson
On August 7, 2018, EPA is expected to announce the extension of the comment period on the problem formulations for the risk evaluations for the first 10 chemicals under Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) Section 6. The notice extends the comment period on the problem formulations and the document titled Application of Systematic Review of TSCA Risk Evaluations, an additional 21 days, until August 16, 2018. Reportedly EPA received several requests to extend the deadline.
By Kathleen M. Roberts, Jason E. Johnston, M.S., Sheryl Lindros Dolan, and Margaret R. Graham
On June 25, 2018, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) held a preparatory meeting for experts selected to serve as letter peer reviewers for EPA's Exposure and Use Assessment and Human Health and Environmental Hazard Summary for five persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic (PBT) chemicals. A list of those chemicals is available here. Although the meeting was scheduled for four hours, it adjourned after only two hours, as there were only a few questions from peer reviewers and only two outside stakeholders providing oral comments. Below are some highlights/takeaways from the meeting:
- All five PBT chemicals being reviewed scored high for hazard;
- Two PBT chemicals were pulled from EPA action under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) Section 6 because manufacturers requested risk evaluations for them prior to the September 19, 2016, deadline;
- Four of the PBT chemicals scored high or moderate for exposure; one scored low (pentachlorothiophenol (PCTP));
- For exposure assessment, EPA split up information as “core exposure data” or “supplemental exposure data”: core exposure data would be environmental data, monitoring, biomonitoring, modeled concentrations, or modeled dose; and supplemental exposure data would be environmental fate, engineering data, or other information related to exposure information or pathways;
- EPA identified exposure scenarios -- looking at source/use, environmental pathways, and receptors;
- EPA did not conduct any new modeling on the chemicals but did use modeled data from published literature;
- EPA did not conduct an exhaustive literature search, review, or assessment of hazard data, it used data readily available, as described in the Human Health and Environmental Hazard Summary; the EPA document “Supplemental Information for the Exposure and Use Assessment of Five Persistent, Bioaccumulative and Toxic Chemicals” outlines the literature search process used for exposure data; and
- Exposure scenarios include both quantitative and qualitative information.
No written comments were submitted prior to the peer review webinar. Only three people signed up for oral comments, and one was not present online. The two public commenters noted concerns regarding the likelihood of exposure, including the potential for accidental exposures; the lack of EPA focus on susceptible subpopulations; EPA’s intent not to address exposures that are already regulated under other EPA programs; and the need to assess the risk of bias.
Per the language in amended TSCA, EPA must issue risk management proposals to reduce exposures to the extent practicable by June 19, 2019.
Any public comments submitted by July 23, 2018, will be shared with peer reviewers. Comments submitted between July 23, 2018, and August 17, 2018, will be available to EPA for consideration. All comments are due by August 17, 2018. A recording of the webinar, slides, and other materials from the meeting will be posted in Docket EPA-HQ-OPPT-2018-0314. There are currently six supporting documents posted:
Stay up-to-date on TSCA implementation issues via our Recent Regulatory Developments web page and our TSCAblog.
By Lynn L. Bergeson, Charles M. Auer, and Carla N. Hutton
On June 20, 2018, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued guidance intended “to improve transparency with the public and with companies seeking Agency review of their new chemical substances under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).” EPA states that the guidance, entitled Points to Consider When Preparing TSCA New Chemical Notifications, “promotes early engagement and communication, and enhances overall understanding of EPA’s technical review and analysis to better move chemicals through the evaluation process.” EPA incorporated comments from a December 2017 public meeting and feedback received on a November 2017 draft of the document into its guidance. EPA also issued a “Response to Comments Received on Points to Consider Posted for Comment November 2017.” EPA states that it expects that use of the guidance will result in “more robust submissions.” EPA encourages companies to contact its new chemicals program to set up a pre-submission (or “pre-notice”) meeting before submitting their premanufacture notices (PMN). According to EPA, the pre-submission meeting is an opportunity to discuss the planned new chemical submission and to understand EPA’s approach to reviewing new chemicals for potential risks early in the process.
More information will be available in our detailed analysis to be issued in a memorandum later today and posted to our Recent Regulatory Developments web page.
By Susan M. Kirsch
On May 22-23, 2018, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) hosted a Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) National Leadership Summit (Summit) in Washington, D.C. The Summit convened federal and state regulators, including representatives from EPA’s Office of Water (OW), EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention (OCSPP), the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD), a small group of invited industry participants, and representative from the environmental non-governmental organization (NGO) community. The goals of the Summit were:
- To share information on efforts to characterize risks from PFAS and to develop monitoring and remediation technologies/techniques;
- To identify near-term actions to address current state and local challenges; and
- To develop risk communication strategies to address public concerns and questions surrounding PFAS.
EPA broadcast the opening remarks and perspectives delivered by EPA Administrator Pruitt; Peter Grevatt, Director of the Office of Ground Water and Drinking Water; Jeff Morris, Director of the Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics (OPPT); Craig Butler, Direct of the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency and Chair of the Environmental Council of the States (ECOS) Water Committee; and Jessica Bowman, Senior Director of Global Fluoro-Chemistry, at the American Chemistry Council. During his remarks, Pruitt announced that EPA will soon classify two fluorochemicals, perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluoroctane sulfonate (PFOS), as hazardous substances, and that EPA will begin to development maximum contaminant levels (MCL) for PFOA and PFOS under the Safe Drinking Water Act. PFOA and PFOS are largely legacy chemicals that were the subject of voluntary phase out by chemical manufacturers. The presence of PFOA and PFOS at former manufacturing sites and detections in groundwater and drinking water have raised public health concerns and made headlines over the last several months, particularly in Northeast states.
Butler’s remarks highlighted the key questions that ECOS and state participants hoped to have addressed by EPA over the course of the Summit, including any plans for MCL development, guidance on contaminated site remediation and PFAS analytical methods, and EPA’s plan to address data and knowledge gaps about PFOA and PFOS, as well as the alternative short-chain PFAS chemistry that makes up the majority of current and new uses of PFAS. States are eager for direction and assistance from EPA on standard-setting and, in the absence of federal standards, some states have begun to set their own standards. A copy of the ECOS statement is available here.
Grevatt shared plans for further co-regulator discussions and community engagement as part of an EPA “roadshow” beginning in late June in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Morris provided an overview of the rigors of the pre-market review process under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) and OPPT’s ongoing work to better understand the diverse range of PFAS in the marketplace.
EPA intended for the Summit to serve as a formal launch of an ongoing dialogue with states, the public, and industry on PFAS, and more details will likely be shared in the coming weeks and months. A recording of the May 22, 2018, broadcast is available on EPA’s YouTube channel. Copies of the slide presentations from the Summit are available on EPA’s PFAS Summit website.