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By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton

On November 15, 2021, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Office of Inspector General (OIG) announced the availability of its annual report summarizing what OIG considers the “most serious management and performance challenges facing the agency.” According to OIG, EPA’s top management challenges in fiscal year (FY) 2022 include:

  • Mitigating the Causes and Adapting to the Impacts of Climate Change: EPA must take a leadership role in limiting climate change and mitigating its effect on human health and the environment;
     
  • Integrating and Leading Environmental Justice across EPA and the Government: As part of its effort to integrate environmental justice across its programs, EPA must address the environmental hazards and cumulative risk facing at-risk communities and effectively communicate that risk to those communities;
     
  • Ensuring the Safe Use of Chemicals: OIG states that to protect effectively public health and the environment, EPA must be able to depend on its ability to conduct credible and timely assessments of the risks posed by pesticides, toxic chemicals, and other environmental chemical risks. According to OIG, the 2016 expansion of EPA’s regulatory authority under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) has increased the need for conducting rapid and accurate risk assessments. OIG notes that EPA must also continue to conduct registration and reregistration of “hundreds of pesticides per year, as well as assure that it is setting appropriate exposure levels for contaminants in drinking water.” Without appropriate resource and implementation plans in place to demonstrate that EPA can accomplish this work, and without the ability to conduct scientifically sound risk assessments accurately, the public’s trust and confidence in EPA’s ability to accomplish its mission of protecting human health and the environment will be at risk;
     
  • Safeguarding Scientific Integrity Principles: Science-based decisions at EPA must be based on principles of scientific integrity to ensure that human health and the environment are protected by using the best available science. EPA must develop new processes and update its regulations, policies, and guidance to protect scientific integrity. According to OIG, taking these actions will help make EPA decisions more legally defensible and maintain public trust in its decision making;
     
  • Ensuring Information Technology and Systems Are Protected against Cyberthreats: Information technology is a fundamental and essential resource for EPA to carry out its mission;
     
  • Managing Infrastructure Funding and Business Operations: EPA must effectively oversee the funding and operation of America’s water, wastewater, and other environmental infrastructure; and
     
  • Enforcing Environmental Laws and Regulations: Through enforcement, EPA ensures that regulated entities are following environmental laws and will continue to do so, as enforcement actions effectively deter future noncompliance. According to OIG, considering EPA’s limited resources, and despite potential funding increases in FY 2022, “EPA is challenged to assess its resource requirements for the enforcement program and identify innovative and cost-effective means of detecting and deterring noncompliance in the future.”

 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Margaret R. Graham

On January 31, 2018, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the release of its 2018 Annual Report on Risk Evaluations.  Pursuant to 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. The plan is to include 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.  The 2018 annual plan identifies the next steps for the first ten chemical reviews currently underway and describes EPA’s work in 2018 to prepare for future risk evaluations.

EPA issued scoping documents on the first ten chemical reviews in June 2017.  The plan states that in early calendar year 2018, EPA will be making refinements to these scope documents in the form of “problem formulation documents” that will include additional elements such as conceptual models.  EPA will publish a notice in the Federal Register announcing the release of these problem formulation documents and will invite comments for 45 days.  

The plan also states that EPA will initiate prioritization for 40 chemicals (at least 20 Low-Priority and 20 High-Priority candidates) by the end of calendar year 2018.  By December 22, 2019, EPA plans to have designated 20 substances as Low-Priority and initiated risk evaluations on 20 High-Priority substances.  Further, EPA will be proposing the much-anticipated TSCA Fees Rule in early-mid fiscal year (FY) 2018, and anticipates issuing a final rule in late FY2018.

Information on EPA’s 2017 Annual Report is available in our blog item EPA Publishes 2017 Annual Report on Chemical Risk Evaluations.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Margaret R. Graham

On January 3, 2018, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced it would be hosting two webinars to support Third-Party Certifiers (TPC) in generating and entering annual report information into the Central Data Exchange (CDX).  Registration is available online through the following links: the webinars will be held on January 9, 2018, from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. (EST); and on February 1, 2018, from 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. (EST).  Both webinar presentations will provide an overview of the TPC annual report requirements and a live demonstration of the reporting process through CDX.

As required under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) Title VI final rule that implemented the Formaldehyde Standards for Composite Wood Products Act, EPA-recognized TPCs must submit an annual report to EPA through CDX on or before March 1, 2018.  The required information includes the name and location of the mill(s), the types of products certified for them, and quarterly test data on each product.  Providing certification services for multiple mills and submitting that information to the CDX database may take a considerable amount of time, therefore, EPA strongly suggests for TPCs to start entering the required information and existing testing data for each panel producer as soon as possible to ensure that they meet the deadline.  Basic information on each panel producer, such as name(s), product type(s), and testing information that is available now can be entered into CDX immediately. 

EPA also stated the importance of retaining the password; the password created for the annual report will be required later to amend, finalize, and submit the report to the EPA.  If this password is lost, it cannot be recovered, and a new annual report submission would need to be created.

More information is available on EPA’s website.