By Lynn L. Bergeson and Margaret R. Graham
On February 8, 2018, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a technology assessment report to congressional requestors entitled Chemical Innovation: Technologies to Make Processes and Products More Sustainable. GAO states it conducted this technology assessment “to explore, among other things, the opportunities, challenges, and federal roles in sustainable chemistry.” This report discusses (1) how stakeholders define and assess sustainable chemistry; (2) available or developing technologies to make chemical processes and products more sustainable; and (3) how the federal government, industry and others contribute to the development and use of such technologies. GAO states it is not making recommendations in this report, but is identifying strategic implications.
As part of its assessment, GAO interviewed stakeholders from government, industry, and academia; convened a meeting of experts on sustainable chemistry technologies and approaches; and surveyed a non-generalizable sample of chemical companies. GAO identified three categories of more sustainable chemistry technologies -- catalysts, solvents, and continuous processing -- that demonstrate both progress and potential:
- Catalysts reduce the energy input required for a chemical process and allow for more efficient use of materials. Stakeholders suggested future research be directed at developing less toxic or renewable catalysts, including those that are metal-free or those from earth-abundant metals such as iron.
- Solvents are used in many chemical processes but can create waste issues and be toxic. Alternatives include solvents from renewable, non-petroleum raw materials and solvents such as water that are less hazardous to human health and the environment, among other qualities.
- An alternative to traditional batch processing is continuous processing, in which materials react as they flow along a system of channels, pipes, or tubes. Compared to batch processing, continuous processing uses materials more efficiently, generates less waste, and has a smaller physical footprint.
GAO also identified, through its interaction with stakeholders, the following strategic implications of sustainable chemistry; and potential options to address these challenges and realize the full potential of these technologies:
- Breakthrough technologies in sustainable chemistry could transform how the industry thinks about performance, function, and synthesis. Sustainable chemistry creates opportunities to use a different conceptual framework that allows industry to create molecules with better performance.
- The establishment of an organized constituency, with the involvement of both industry and government, could help make sustainable chemistry a priority. An industry consortium, working in partnership with a key supporter at the federal level, could lead to an effective national initiative or strategy.
- A national initiative that considers sustainable chemistry in a systematic manner could be useful. Such an effort could encourage collaborations among industry, academia and the government, similar to other national technology Initiatives.
- There are opportunities for the federal government to address industry-wide challenges. Federal attention that facilitates development of standard tools for assessment and a robust definition could help clarify relevant participants in the field and improve information available for decision-makers at all levels
More information on the report and its strategic implications is available on GAO’s website.
By Lynn L. Bergeson, Charles M. Auer, and Margaret R. Graham
On March 13, 2018, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released three draft guidance documents for public comment clarifying the circumstances under which EPA may disclose Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) confidential business information (CBI) with an expanded set of people. Amended TSCA Section 14(d) expanded the categories of people to whom EPA may disclose TSCA CBI by specifically authorizing EPA to disclose TSCA CBI to state, tribal, and local governments; environmental, health, and medical professionals; and emergency responders, under certain conditions, including consistency with guidance that EPA is required to develop. The draft guidance documents are:
EPA’s prepublication version of the notice of availability of the draft guidance states the conditions for access vary under each of the new provisions, but generally include the following: requesters must show that they have a need for the information related to their employment, professional, or legal duties; recipients of TSCA CBI are prohibited from disclosing or permitting further disclosure of the information to individuals not authorized to receive it (physicians/nurses may disclose the information to their patient); and, except in emergency situations, EPA must notify the entity that made the CBI claim at least 15 days prior to disclosing the CBI. In addition, under these new provisions, requesters (except in some emergency situations) are required to sign an agreement and may be required to submit a statement of need to EPA. In accordance with the requirements of TSCA section 14(c)(4)(B), each guidance document covers the content and form of the agreements and statements required under each provision and include information on where and how to submit requests to EPA. A 30-day comment period for the draft guidance documents will open upon the notice’s publication in the Federal Register; comments can be submitted to docket EPA-HQ-OPPT-2017-0652 via www.regulations.gov.
On March 12, 2018, EPA also announced that it collecting comments on burden and other information required by the Paperwork Reduction Act related to these documents in the form of an Information Collection Request (ICR), as detailed in a separate notice. 83 Fed. Reg. 10719. Comments on the ICR are due May 11, 2018. EPA states that it anticipates using comments received in response to the guidance document notice and the ICR notice to inform the development of final guidance documents, which it anticipates to be released in June 2018.
By Lynn L. Bergeson and Margaret R. Graham
On March 9, 2018, as a first step in developing a proposed rule regulating certain persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic (PBT) chemicals, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it is seeking nominations for individuals who represent small businesses, small governments, and small non-for-profit organizations to serve as Small Entity Representatives (SER) to provide input on potential impacts of PBT regulation. EPA states the role of a SER is “to provide advice and recommendations to ensure that the Panel carefully considers small entity concerns regarding the impact of the potential rule on their organizations and to communicate with other small entities within their sector who do not serve as SERs,” and will ask the SERs to provide comments on behalf of their company, community, or organization and advise a soon to be created Small Business Advocacy Review (SBAR) panel regarding potential impacts to small businesses that could result from the regulation of certain identified PBTs. The SBAR panel will include federal representatives from EPA, the Small Business Administration, and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). After collecting input from the small entities, the panel will make recommendations to the Agency on the development of a proposed rule to regulate these PBT chemicals.
Under Section 6(h) of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), EPA is required, not later than three years after the date of enactment (June 22, 2019), to propose rules regarding the regulation of certain PBTs selected from the 2014 update of the TSCA Work Plan for Chemical Assessments that: (1) EPA has a reasonable basis to conclude are toxic and that with respect to persistence and bioaccumulation score high for one and either high or moderate for the other have been identified; and (2) exposure to which under the conditions of use is likely to the general population or to a potentially exposed or susceptible subpopulation identified by the Administrator, or the environment, on the basis of an exposure and use assessment conducted by the Administrator. The PBT chemicals that EPA has selected are:
- Decabromodiphenyl ethers (DecaBDE), used as a flame retardant in textiles, plastics, wiring insulation, and building and construction materials;
- Hexachlorobutadiene (HCBD), used as a solvent in the manufacture of rubber compounds and as hydraulic, heat transfer or transformer fluid;
- Pentachlorothiophenol (PCTP), used as a mercaptan (sulfur) cross-linking agent to make rubber more pliable in industrial uses;
- Phenol, isopropylated, phosphate (3:1), used as a flame retardant in consumer products and as lubricant, hydraulic fluid, and other industrial uses; and
- 2,4,6-Tris(tert-butyl) phenol, an antioxidant that can be used as a fuel, oil, gasoline or lubricant additive.
The Regulatory Flexibility Act requires agencies to establish a SBAR panel for rules that may have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities. EPA states that the panel process will offer “an opportunity for small businesses, small governments and small not-for-profit organizations … to provide advice and recommendations to ensure that the EPA carefully considers small entity concerns regarding the impact of the potential rule on their organizations.”
EPA states eligible SERs are small entities that manufacture, process, distribute in commerce, use, or dispose any of the five selected PBT chemicals. EPA is seeking self-nominations directly from entities that may be subject to the rule requirements. Other representatives, such as trade associations that exclusively or at least primarily represent potentially regulated small entities, may also serve as SERs. Self-nominations may be submitted through the instructions outlined on EPA’s Potential SBAR Panel website and must be received by March 22, 2018. More information about the SBAR process is available online.
By Lynn L. Bergeson and Margaret R. Graham
On March 6, 2018, in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) filed its Principal Brief in the litigation case that petitions for review the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) Inventory Notification (Active-Inactive) Requirements final rule (EDF v. EPA, No. 1701 (D.C. Cir.)).
EDF’s brief includes, among other required statements, a statement of the issues, a statement of the case, a summary of their argument, and their argument. EDF’s arguments are as follows:
- The Inventory Rule withholds information on chemical substances manufactured or processed in the U.S. from the public; this information is required to be disclosed under amended TSCA; EDF has been harmed by EPA’s failure to disclose this information and to disclose unique identifiers for confidential chemicals; and the court can redress this harm.
- The final rule illegally allows manufacturers and processors to assert certain new claims for nondisclosure of specific chemical identities based on other persons having asserted earlier claims, which is contrary to TSCA’s plain text and the relevant precedent governing confidentiality claims; and EPA’s rationale for its interpretation is arbitrary and capricious.
- The final rule violates both the substantive and procedural requirements of TSCA Section 14, Confidential Information, specifically that: EPA refused to accept that TSCA Section 8, Reporting and Retention of Information, repeatedly incorporates Section 14 requirements for confidentiality claims; the final rule fails to implement one of the substantive requirements for confidentiality claims under Section 14; and the final rule fails to implement one of the substantive requirements for confidentiality claims under Section 14.
- The final rule fails to implement the unique identifier and other public information requirements in TSCA Section 8(b)(7)(B).
- The final rule exempts chemicals manufactured and processed solely for export from the reporting requirements, even though such chemicals are specifically not exempted from TSCA Section 8.
- Finally, EDF requests the court to set aside the rule in part, stating that vacatur, along with remand, is the appropriate remedy for EPA’s violations of the Administrative Procedure Act (APA). EDF does not seek a complete vacatur, however, stating that “a complete vacatur would postpone the release of some of the very information that EDF seeks, since it would allow EPA to postpone publishing the Inventory based on the information it has already collected. In addition, it would impose costs on the regulated community beyond those necessary to remedy EDF’s harms [and] those manufacturers and processors who have already filed notices without claims of confidentiality should not need to refile the notices.” The portions of the final rule that EDF requests the court to vacate are as follows: the exclusion for export-only manufacturers (40 C.F.R. Section 710.27(a)(4)); Confidentiality Claims (40 C.F.R. Section 710.37); and certain portions of the preamble. EDF states specific instructions on how it would like the court to order EPA to promulgate the regulation on remand that include revisions to regulations on confidentiality claims, public information requirements, and notifications of activities during the lookback period.
EDF has done its usual thorough job and the brief is definitely a must read for TSCA stakeholders. More information on this proceeding and the other challenges to the TSCA framework final rules is available on our blog under key words framework rules.
By Lynn L. Bergeson and Margaret R. Graham
On March 7, 2018, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a draft Strategic Plan to Promote the Development and Implementation of Alternative Test Methods to reduce the use of vertebrate animals in chemical testing, fulfilling another milestone under the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act that amended the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). Under amended TSCA, EPA is required to develop a strategy to promote the development and implementation of alternative test methods and strategies to reduce, refine or replace vertebrate animal testing by June 22, 2018. EPA states the draft document incorporates input from a November 2017 public meeting held on the development of the draft strategy, as well as written comments submitted after the meeting, and draws upon EPA research on test methods.
The draft strategy outlines EPA’s Strategic Plan for the reduction of testing in vertebrates for chemicals regulated under TSCA. The organizing framework for the EPA’s strategy to reduce vertebrate animal testing relies heavily on what have been termed new approach methodologies (NAM) -- a broadly descriptive reference to any nonanimal technology, methodology, approach, or combination thereof that can be used to provide information on chemical hazard and risk assessment. The strategy describes a multi-year process with incremental steps for adoption and integration of NAMs that are appropriate and fit-for-purpose for making TSCA decisions, and has three core components:
- Identifying, developing, and integrating NAMs for TSCA decisions;
- Building confidence that the NAMs are scientifically reliable and relevant for TSCA decisions; and
- Implementing the reliable and relevant NAMs for TSCA decisions. The EPA has identified seven current/near-term (less that three years) needs and activities.
EPA states that completing these activities will result in moving towards four intermediate-term (three to five years) objectives and these time frames, needs, and activities provide the basis for developing NAMs, establishing reliability and relevance criteria for the NAMs, and implementing NAMs to inform decisions made under TSCA.
Comments on the draft strategy will be due 45 days after the notice of availability is published in the Federal Register. EPA has scheduled a public meeting to obtain input on the draft strategy for April 10, 2018, from 9:00 a.m. (EDT) to 5:00 p.m. (EDT) in Washington, D.C. Registration is available online and is requested by April 3, 2018.
By Lynn L. Bergeson and Margaret R. Graham
On February 26, 2018, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published its proposed fees rule entitled User Fees for the Administration of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), as permissible under TSCA Section 26(b). 83 Fed. Reg. 8212. The rule as proposed will set user fees applicable to any person required to submit information to EPA under TSCA Section 4 or a notice, including an exemption or other information, to be reviewed by the Administrator under TSCA Section 5, or who manufactures (including imports) a chemical substance that is the subject of a risk evaluation under TSCA Section 6(b). The notice of proposed rulemaking provides a description of proposed TSCA fees and fee categories for fiscal years 2019, 2020, and 2021, and explains the methodology by which the proposed TSCA user fees were determined and would be determined for subsequent fiscal years. In proposing these new TSCA user fees, EPA also proposes amending long standing user fee regulations governing the review of premanufacture notices, exemption applications and notices, and significant new use notices. Comments on the proposed rule are due April 27, 2018.
An in-depth analysis prepared by Bergeson & Campbell, P.C. (B&C®) is available in our memorandum “Administrator Pruitt Signs TSCA User Fee Proposal.”
By Lynn L. Bergeson and Margaret R. Graham
On February 16, 2018, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California issued an order granting plaintiffs’, the Sierra Club and A Community Voice-Louisiana, motion for summary judgment. The court determined that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) final rule delaying the compliance date for the formaldehyde emission standards for composite wood products (Delay Rule) exceeded EPA’s authority under the Formaldehyde Standards in Composite Wood Products Act (Formaldehyde Act) codified as Title VI of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), vacated the Delay Rule, and set aside the year-long extension to December 12, 2018, of the compliance deadlines set out by EPA in the Delay Rule. Sierra Club v. Pruitt, Case No. 4:17-cv-06293. The Delay Rule, issued on September 25, 2017 (82 Fed. Reg. 44533), sought to extend further the compliance dates set out in its December 12, 2016, final rule that implemented the Formaldehyde Act (Formaldehyde Rule) (81 Fed. Reg. 89674), specifically: the December 12, 2017, manufactured-by date for emission standards, recordkeeping, and labeling provisions until December 12, 2018; the December 12, 2018, compliance date for import certification provisions until March 22, 2019; and the December 12, 2023, compliance date for provisions applicable to producers of laminated products until March 22, 2024.
As stated in the order, the Formaldehyde Act set out emission standards for domestically manufactured and imported composite wood products and directed EPA, by no later than July 1, 2013, to promulgate implementing regulations that would ensure compliance with the new emission standards; based on the Delay Rule’s further extension of deadlines, which sets both the manufacturing and emission standards compliance dates to December 12, 2018, EPA would have delayed the implementation for more than three years after the Formaldehyde Act had originally directed EPA to require compliance.
The order also denies defendant EPA’s cross-motion for summary judgment in which EPA states three arguments against plaintiffs’ motion: (1) plaintiffs’ challenge is waived, as plaintiffs did not comment on the proposed extension by raising the sole issue plaintiffs raise in their motion; (2) the statute upon which plaintiffs base their claim expressly provides for EPA to set the manufactured-by date more than 180 days from promulgation of the implementing regulations; and (3) EPA’s extension of the manufactured-by date was reasonable, supported by the record, and not arbitrary or capricious.
In its analysis, the court offered the following to support its holdings:
- The designation of a manufacturing date “no earlier than 180 days following promulgation of the regulations” found in the sell-through provision of the Formaldehyde Act must fall on the 180th day after the regulations take effect. EPA’s interpretation to set the manufacture date beyond 180 days from promulgation of the regulations effectively resets the compliance date in violation of the Formaldehyde Act’s mandatory expedient compliance deadline and the prohibition against stockpiling.
- EPA’s interpretation that it can designate the manufacture date beyond the 180 days limit for compliance with the emission standards is contrary to law and beyond the grant of authority bestowed upon it by Congress in the Formaldehyde Act.
- EPA’s interpretation creates inconsistency within the full text of the Formaldehyde Act, renders the 180-day compliance deadline superfluous, leads to the “absurd” result of permitting the perpetual delay of the effectiveness of the Formaldehyde Rule, and fails to satisfy the stated purpose of the Formaldehyde Act.
The court concluded that the issue of whether EPA should extend the deadline for compliance with the emission standards of the Formaldehyde Rule was adequately before it for consideration. The court stayed the order vacating the Delay Rule until the parties address the implementation of the compliance guidelines and the court directs them to provide, by March 9, 2018, a joint proposed submission or simultaneous briefing to address the timing for lifting the stay and expeditious implementation of the court’s order.
The ruling is one of several expected that will inform stakeholders on the scope of EPA’s authority under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) and the underlying Act at issue, here the Formaldehyde Act, in undoing Obama-era regulations and the extent of Agency discretion in deciding whether and to what extent such rules can be unilaterally delayed or eliminated entirely. The Trump Administration has in unprecedented ways sought to roll back rules under a host of laws, environmental and otherwise, in ways that detractors claim are illegal and contrary to the APA and other laws. Here, the court emphasized the Formaldehyde Act’s “expeditious” emission compliance standards and reasoned that the repeated delays were simply inconsistent with Congress’ intent.
More information on the Formaldehyde Act under TSCA is available on our blog.
By Lynn L. Bergeson and Richard E. Engler, Ph.D.
On February 8, 2018, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced it is releasing a third alternative approach for assigning and applying unique identifiers (UID) to reconcile the competing requirements of Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) Section 14(g) for comment. 83 Fed. Reg. 5623. EPA’s first and second alternative approaches were released for comment in its notice on May 8, 2017 (82 Fed. Reg. 21386). Under amended TSCA, EPA is required to develop a system to assign a “unique identifier” whenever it approves a Confidential Business Information (CBI) claim for the specific chemical identity of a chemical substance, to apply this unique identifier to other information concerning the same substance, and to ensure that any non-confidential information received identifies the chemical substance using the unique identifier while the specific chemical identity of the chemical substance is protected from disclosure.
Under the third alternative approach, EPA would assign one UID per chemical substance. EPA states that in most cases it would apply the UID to all non-confidential information concerning the same chemical substance from any company except in cases where doing so might reveal the identity of confidential substance. In those cases, which EPA expects to be rare, EPA would not apply the UID to non-confidential documents if doing so would result in a linkage that undermines the CBI claim. EPA reiterates that the basic criterion for application of the UID to submissions made by different submitters is that EPA’s act of applying the UID must not disclose to the public the confidential specific chemical identity that the UID was assigned to protect.
Comments are due by March 12, 2018. More information on CBI under TSCA is available on our blog.
By Lynn L. Bergeson and Margaret R. Graham
On February 8, 2018, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued the prepublication version of its long-anticipated fees rule under amended Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) Section 26(b) entitled User Fees for the Administration of the Toxic Substances Control Act. EPA states that the proposed rule will set user fees applicable to any person required to submit information to EPA under TSCA Section 4 or a notice, including an exemption or other information, to be reviewed by the Administrator under TSCA Section 5, or who manufactures (including imports) a chemical substance that is the subject of a risk evaluation under TSCA Section 6(b).
EPA’s notice of proposed rulemaking provides a description of proposed TSCA fees and fee categories for fiscal years 2019, 2020, and 2021, and explains the methodology by which the proposed TSCA user fees were determined and would be determined for subsequent fiscal years. In proposing these new TSCA user fees, the Agency also proposes amending long standing user fee regulations governing the review of premanufacture notices, exemption applications and notices, and significant new use notices.
EPA states the proposed fees on certain chemical manufacturers, including importers, would go towards developing risk evaluations for existing chemicals; collecting and reviewing toxicity and exposure data and information; reviewing Confidential Business Information (CBI); and making determinations regarding the safety of new chemicals before they enter the marketplace.
Comments on the proposed rule will be due 60 days after its publication in the Federal Register.
An in-depth analysis prepared by Bergeson & Campbell, P.C. (B&C®) will soon be available on our Regulatory Developments webpage.