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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.