By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
On May 21, 2021, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published its response to a portion of the petition it received February 8, 2021, from People for Protecting Peace River, Center for Biological Diversity, and 16 other organizations. 86 Fed. Reg. 27546. While the petition requested three actions related to the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), EPA states that it has determined that only one of those actions is an appropriate request: a request to issue a test rule under TSCA requiring testing of phosphogypsum and process wastewater from phosphoric acid production. According to the notice, EPA is treating the other portions of the petition involving TSCA as a petition under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA); those other portions request EPA to initiate the prioritization process for designating phosphogypsum and process wastewater as high-priority substances for risk evaluation and to make a determination by rule under TSCA that the use of phosphogypsum in road construction is a significant new use. Therefore, the notice does not provide EPA’s response to these two TSCA-requested actions. Also, it does not address the petitioners’ requests under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). EPA states that “[a]fter careful consideration,” it has denied the TSCA Section 21 portion of the petition for the following reasons:
- Request for prioritization under TSCA Section 6 and related testing under TSCA Section 4(a)(2)(B): Because TSCA Section 21 does not provide an avenue for petitioners to request the initiation of the prioritization process for phosphogypsum and process wastewater, EPA is treating this portion of the request as a petition for action under the APA. Petitioners assert that “should EPA initiate prioritization but find that the development of new information is necessary to finalize a prioritization decision for phosphogypsum and process wastewater, EPA should exercise its authority under section 4(a)(2)(B) to obtain that information and establish priority.” EPA states that because it is not addressing the request for prioritization and has not otherwise initiated prioritization on phosphogypsum or process wastewater, it is not in a position to exercise its authority under TSCA Section 4(a)(2)(B) in the manner and for the reason described by petitioners.
- Request for significant new use rule (SNUR) under TSCA Section 5: TSCA Section 21 does not provide for the submission of a petition seeking the initiation of a rule under TSCA Section 5. EPA states that SNURs are issued under the authority of TSCA Section 5(a)(2). Since TSCA Section 21 does not provide an avenue for petitioners to request the initiation of a proceeding to make a determination by rule under TSCA Section 5(a), EPA is treating this portion of the request as a petition for action under the APA.
- Request for issuance of a test rule under TSCA Section 4(a)(1)(A): According to the notice, TSCA Section 21 does provide for the submission of a petition seeking issuance of a test rule under TSCA Section 4(a)(1)(A). EPA states that it finds that the petitioners have not met their burden as defined in TSCA Sections 4(a)(1)(A) and 21(b)(1) because the petitioners have not provided the facts necessary to determine for phosphogypsum and process wastewater that existing information and experience are insufficient and testing with respect to such effects is necessary to develop such information.
More information about the petition is available in our March 12, 2021, memorandum, “EPA Receives Petition Seeking RCRA and TSCA Regulatory Action for Phosphogypsum and Process Wastewater.”