By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a press release on November 22, 2019, reminding stakeholders that its regulations to prohibit the manufacture (including import), processing, and distribution of methylene chloride in all paint removers for consumer use will go into effect after November 22, 2019. Beginning November 23, 2019, it will be unlawful for any person or retailer to sell or distribute paint removal products containing methylene chloride for consumer use, including e-commerce sales. EPA states that it “is encouraging all consumers to stop using methylene chloride products that they may have already purchased for paint and coating removal.” EPA also reminds all retailers that sales of these products to consumers are prohibited by EPA regulations under the authority of Section 6 of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). EPA promulgated the final regulation on methylene chloride for consumer paint and coating removal use on March 27, 2019, and the prohibition related to manufacturing, processing and distribution of methylene chloride for consumer paint and coating removal use is now in effect. According to EPA, “[a] variety of effective, less harmful substitutes are readily available for paint removal.” EPA notes that it “is continuing to work through the process outlined in TSCA to review the risks associated with other uses of methylene chloride. This process is designed to thoroughly evaluate available science before taking action to manage the risk associated with the other uses of the chemical.”
More information on EPA’s actions concerning methylene chloride are available in the following memoranda:
By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) posted an August 7, 2019, petition for rulemaking submitted by the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) under Section 21 of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). PEER asks that oil refineries be prohibited from using hydrofluoric acid in their manufacturing processes and that oil refineries be required to phase out the use of hydrofluoric acid within two years. According to PEER, TSCA and the Clean Air Act (CAA) regulate hydrofluoric acid and provide the statutory authority for EPA to issue a regulation prohibiting the use of hydrofluoric acid in oil refineries. PEER states that under TSCA, EPA “possesses the power to promulgate rules banning chemicals that pose an unreasonable risk to human health.” If the EPA Administrator determines that the “manufacture, processing, distribution in commerce, use, or disposal of a chemical substance . . . presents an unreasonable risk of injury to health or the environment,” TSCA Section 6(a) provides EPA the authority to prohibit or otherwise restrict “the manufacture, processing, or distribution in commerce of such substance or mixture for (i) a particular use.” PEER argues that the EPA Administrator could ban the use of hydrofluoric acid in refineries if the Administrator found that its use in that context presented an unreasonable risk to health or the environment. PEER maintains that the use of hydrofluoric acid presents such a risk.
EPA sent a letter to PEER on August 16, 2019, confirming receipt of its petition and noting that Section 21 provides the Administrator 90 days to grant or deny the petition. If the EPA Administrator grants the petition, the Administrator will “promptly commence an appropriate preceding [sic].” If the Administrator denies the petition, the Administrator will publish the reasons for the denial in the Federal Register.
By Lynn L. Bergeson, Charles M. Auer, and Margaret R. Graham
On December 21, 2017, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California ruled that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had wrongly dismissed a Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) Section 21 petition submitted by Food & Water Watch, Inc. and other citizens seeking the regulation of fluoridation of drinking water supplies under TSCA Section 6(a) on grounds that the ingestion of fluoride poses an unreasonable risk to humans. Food & Water Watch, Inc. v. EPA, Case No. 17-cv-02162-EMC (N.D. Cal.) (Food & Water Watch). In 2017, EPA denied the Section 21 petition on the grounds that it failed to address conditions of use other than the fluoridation of drinking water. 82 Fed. Reg. 11878 (Feb. 27, 2017).
In a fairly scathing rebuke of EPA’s legal positions, the court denied EPA’s motion to dismiss the petitioner’s judicial challenge of EPA’s administrative denial of the Section 21 petition and, in so doing, essentially rejected EPA’s interpretation that a citizen petition must evaluate all conditions of use of a chemical substance in a TSCA Section 6(b) risk evaluation. While we are hesitant to note that “we told you so” in our March 7, 2017, blog item, the analysis noted there was spot on.
At issue in Food & Water Watch is EPA’s legal position that TSCA Section 6 requires that EPA consider all conditions of use in proceedings under that provision. The court rejected this view noting that the “argument has no basis in the statutory text,” and there “is no good reason to believe that the term’s [conditions of use] appearance … [in Section 21] … obligates all citizen petitioners to address all conditions of use.” The court also noted that EPA’s interpretation creates “a disparity between citizen petitions and manufacturer requests” for a Section 6(b) risk evaluation. Under the rules, a manufacturer’s request may be limited only to those particular conditions of use of interest to the manufacturer, citing 40 C.F.R. Section 702.37(b)(4). The court also noted EPA’s change of view on this issue between the proposed and final risk evaluation rule. EPA initially proposed that risk evaluations must consider all conditions of use, but concluded in the final rule that EPA may focus its review on fewer than all conditions of use.
The court’s analysis is clear and well written, and goes into some detail on EPA’s legal reasoning and the problems it identified with it.
This ruling raises interesting issues when viewed in the broader context of pending judicial challenges to EPA’s TSCA framework rules. In those challenges, citizen advocates challenge EPA’s view, as articulated in the final framework rules, that the Agency retains discretion to assess those conditions of use it believes are most relevant for a particular chemical evaluation. In other words, they challenge EPA’s view that fewer than all conditions of use must be considered in a risk evaluation, the very position the court in Food & Water Watch rejected for purposes of Section 21 petitions challenging EPA’s interpretation of a citizen’s legal burden under TSCA Section 6(a). Given that the judicial challenge to the risk evaluation final rule is being heard in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, this district court decision is particularly relevant.
By Lynn L. Bergeson and Margaret R. Graham
On January 19, 2017, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a Federal Register notice announcing it will be holding a public meeting to receive public input and information on uses and conditions of use for the initial ten chemicals to be evaluated under Section 6(b)(2)(A) of the amended Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) on February 14, 2017, from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. (EST), at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center, Polaris Room, 1300 Pennsylvania Avenue Northwest, Washington, DC 20004. 82 Fed. Reg. 6545. EPA states that the information it gathers on uses and the conditions of use will assist it in identifying potential exposure scenarios for the ten chemicals.
Registration is available online and remote access will be available for registered participants. Public dockets for each chemical have been established. Written comments and materials will also be accepted in these dockets on www.regulations.gov. EPA requests for them to be submitted by March 1, 2017.
Additional information, including links to the public dockets, is available on EPA’s website and in our blog item EPA Announces Initial List of TSCA Section 6 Chemicals for Risk Evaluation.
By Lynn L. Bergeson, Charles M. Auer, and Margaret R. Graham
On January 11, 2017, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced it would be issuing a rule proposing to prohibit the manufacture (including import), processing, and distribution in commerce of trichloroethylene (TCE) for use in vapor degreasing; to prohibit commercial use of TCE in vapor degreasing; 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. EPA is proposing under Section 6 of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) to prohibit these uses due to its determination that there are “significant health risks associated with TCE use in vapor degreasing,” and they present “an unreasonable risk to human health.” 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. More information on the final rule is available in our memorandum on our website under the key phrase TSCA.
By Lynn L. Bergeson and Charles M. Auer
On December 21, 2016, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published a final rule regarding procedures for rulemaking under Section 6 of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) in the Federal Register. Under TSCA Section 6, EPA has the authority to address risks from chemical substances, and Section 6 includes procedures that EPA must follow. As amended by the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act, TSCA no longer mandates certain procedural requirements, and this rulemaking removes the regulations specifying those procedures. The final rule is effective on the date of publication, December 21, 2016.
The final rule appears to amend the Section 6 procedural requirements such that they align with the amended requirements under new TSCA. While the procedural simplifications in new TSCA were a useful change that should better enable regulatory action on existing chemicals, EPA will need to exercise care in its future rulemaking to meet the procedural requirements that remain in Section 6, as well as satisfy the relevant provisions in Section 26. More information regarding this final rule is available in our memorandum TSCA: EPA Amends Procedures for TSCA Section 6 Rulemaking.