Section 6(h) of new TSCA addresses persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic (PBT) chemical substances listed in the 2014 TSCA Work Plan. For such chemicals, Section 6(h) outlines a procedure requiring “expedited” regulatory action that is intended to reduce exposures to these chemicals to the “extent practicable.” As written, chemicals subject to Section 6(h) will not undergo a risk evaluation as will other high-priority chemicals. Instead, EPA will proceed immediately to assess and identify appropriate risk management actions for these chemicals that EPA believes achieves the goal of reduced exposure to the “extent practicable.” EPA is required under new TSCA to issue the proposed risk management rules by June 2019, or three years from enactment of new TSCA, and issue the final rules six months thereafter.
Importantly, manufacturers or other stakeholders of potential Section 6(h) chemicals can request that EPA conduct a risk evaluation prior to risk management decisions. Section 6(h)(5) expressly allows entities to request such risk evaluations, effectively blunting expedited action. The cost of the risk evaluation is borne by the entity requesting the evaluation. Such requests must be received prior to September 22, 2016, a fast-approaching deadline.
This deadline plainly poses ups and downs. On the one hand, absent a risk evaluation, fast tracking the process necessarily invites worst-case assumptions and a high degree of probability regulation actions will be extensive. On the other hand, in the absence of a defined risk evaluation process and a yet-to be-defined fee assessment process or schedule, volunteers may be few and far between. Understandably, a potential requester can be expected to want to know what the risk evaluation cost will be before making a commitment to pay that amount. Nonetheless, even with these uncertainties, under some circumstances the election may be worth considering and stakeholders are urged to consider the risks and benefits quickly as September 22 is less than a month away. Reportedly, EPA is preparing interim guidance for companies that wish to nominate a PBT for risk evaluation, and expects to issue it soon.