By Lynn L. Bergeson, Richard E. Engler, Ph.D., and Carla N. Hutton
On October 11, 2022, the U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) released its final investigative report into “a massive fire and explosions” at the Philadelphia Energy Solutions Refinery in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, that occurred in June 2019. According to CSB, the incident occurred when a corroded pipe elbow ruptured, releasing process fluid into the refinery’s hydrofluoric acid (HF) alkylation unit. CSB states that over 5,000 pounds of “highly toxic” HF were released, “a 38,000-pound vessel fragment launched off-site and landed on the other side of the Schuylkill River, and an estimated property damage loss of $750 million resulted.”
In its final report, CSB notes that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has not yet prioritized HF or performed a risk evaluation of HF under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), as amended by the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act. According to CSB, HF “is one of the eight most hazardous chemicals regulated by the EPA Risk Management Program (RMP).” CSB states that it concludes that EPA should initiate prioritization to evaluate whether HF is a high-priority substance for risk evaluation under TSCA. If HF is determined to be a high-priority substance, EPA should conduct a risk evaluation of HF and implement any identified corrective actions, as required by TSCA. CSB “recommends to EPA to take such action.”
While we agree that HF is a highly hazardous substance that warrants prioritization for review under Section 6 of TSCA, it is not clear how a TSCA risk evaluation will address the risks related to accidents, such as the one that was the subject of this CSB investigation. Congress clearly stated that “reasonably foreseen” conditions of use exclude misuse of a chemical substance. CSB concluded that the facility had failed to meet its obligations under the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and other EPA regulations, and the accident was the result of the failure of a section of pipe that was decades old. We would argue that such a failure was a misuse of HF. As a result, we would expect a TSCA risk evaluation to conclude that as long as appropriate engineering controls are used to prevent worker exposure and prevent releases to the neighboring communities under the intended and reasonably foreseen conditions of use, there is not an unreasonable risk. EPA’s review might lead to the imposition of a lower workplace exposure limit (than the OSHA permissible exposure limit (PEL)) and might lead to a lower Hazardous Air Pollutant standard under the Clean Air Act. Neither of these protective measures would have prevented the accident. Others may argue that an accidental release is reasonably foreseen (after all, it did happen), but, in our view, this accident was the result of misuse, so it is outside the definition of reasonably foreseen conditions of use.
By Lynn L. Bergeson, Richard E. Engler, Ph.D., and Carla N. Hutton
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced on March 29, 2021, that it is evaluating its policies, guidance, templates, and regulations under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) new chemicals program to ensure they “adhere to statutory requirements,” the Biden-Harris Administration’s executive orders, and other directives. EPA identified several instances where its approach for making determinations and managing risks associated with new chemicals can, according to EPA, more closely align with TSCA’s requirements to ensure protections for human health and the environment, including the use of significant new use rules (SNUR) and assumptions related to worker exposures. EPA states that it will stop issuing determinations of “not likely to present an unreasonable risk” based on the existence of proposed SNURs. According to EPA, “[r]ather than excluding reasonably foreseen conditions of use from EPA’s review of a new substance by means of a SNUR, Congress anticipated that EPA would review all conditions of use when making determinations on new chemicals and, where appropriate, issue orders to address potential risks.” Going forward, when EPA concludes that one or more uses may present an unreasonable risk, or when EPA believes that it lacks the information needed to make a safety finding, EPA will issue an order to address those potential risks.
EPA states that as has been the “long-standing practice,” it intends to continue issuing SNURs following TSCA Section 5(e) and 5(f) orders for new chemicals to ensure the requirements imposed on the submitter via an order apply to any person who manufactures or processes the chemical in the future. EPA notes that this ensures that other manufacturers of the same new chemical substance are held to the same conditions as the submitter subject to the TSCA Section 5(e) or 5(f) order.
EPA states that it now intends to ensure necessary protections for workers identified in its review of new chemicals through regulatory means. According to the announcement, where EPA identifies a potential unreasonable risk to workers that could be addressed with appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) and hazard communication, EPA will no longer assume that workers are protected adequately under the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) worker protection standards and updated safety data sheets (SDS). Instead, EPA will identify the absence of worker safeguards as “reasonably foreseen” conditions of use, and mandate necessary protections through a TSCA Section 5(e) order, as appropriate.
The first policy change -- that the Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics (OPPT) will no longer employ the “non-order SNUR” construction to regulate new chemicals without an order -- was somewhat predictable. This construction, since its inception, has led to questions about whether this interpretation meets the requirements under TSCA Section 5. In our view, EPA issuing a SNUR to prohibit conditions of use that EPA identifies as potentially leading to an unreasonable risk was an appropriate and expeditious means to achieve the protective end (the TSCA regulation) without the inefficiency and delays associated with the development of a consent order. EPA would only use this option when EPA concluded the intended conditions of use were not likely to present an unreasonable risk. It is not clear why a SNUR is viewed as being less protective than an order, when an order applies only to the premanufacture notice (PMN) submitter and a SNUR applies to all actors in the supply chain. EPA is required to promulgate a SNUR that conforms to an order absent a reason otherwise. The claim that undertaking a condition of use that is defined in a SNUR as a significant new use “requires only notification to EPA” misrepresents the rigor of the significant new use notice (SNUN) process. A SNUN functions just like a PMN, with a similar level of effort required on the submitter’s and EPA’s parts and nearly identical determination outcomes (a consent order, modification of the existing SNUR, or revocation of the existing SNUR if warranted), so saying that a SNUN is “just a notification to EPA” is the equivalent of stating that a PMN is “just a notification to EPA.” Detractors might also claim that orders include testing, but that presumes that testing is required for EPA to make an informed decision. If EPA can, as it routinely does, make a decision based on conservative assumptions with analogs, models, and information provided by the submitter, EPA can similarly make an informed decision about what measures are necessary to achieve its protective goal without new test data. In Bergeson & Campbell, P.C.’s (B&C®) view, this policy change will add marginal, if any, protective benefit at a significant increase in effort by both EPA and the submitter.
EPA’s decision that it no longer views use of PPE as reasonably foreseeable is an unwelcome and unprincipled development. B&C, on behalf of the TSCA New Chemicals Coalition (NCC), provided, at OPPT’s request, a robust data set that demonstrated that proper PPE is rarely not used in an industrial/commercial setting. A database of 40 years of OSHA violations contained very few glove, goggle, and general dermal protection violations -- all obvious violations to any inspector. The marginal number of OSHA violations supports the NCC’s view that standard PPE use is both reasonably foreseeable and highly likely and demonstrably so. Today’s unexplained reversal is difficult to reconcile with these facts. If EPA proceeds to issue orders for every PMN that may present a risk if workers do not take routine protective measures, then EPA will be required to regulate nearly every PMN in which EPA identifies a hazard other than “low hazard” for health and ecotoxicity, as was EPA’s practice when the Lautenberg amendments were passed in 2016. As we have stated previously, that would mean that EPA will be implementing TSCA as a hazard-based law, instead of the clear risk-based law that it is.
By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
On February 23, 2021, the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA) announced that in association with other relevant Directorates-General (DG) of the European Commission (EC), DG Environment has opened a call for applications to select members for an expert group, the High-Level Roundtable on Implementation of the Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability. According to EU-OSHA, the expert group’s mission “is to set the Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability objectives and monitor its implementation in dialogue with the stakeholders concerned.” Specific tasks include contributing to identifying and addressing social, economic, and cultural barriers to the transition toward safe and sustainable chemicals. The expert group will act as a core group of ambassadors to facilitate discussions and promote this transition in the economy and society, developing a regular exchange of views, experiences, and good practices between the EC and stakeholders on the main objectives of the Strategy, namely:
- Innovating for safe and sustainable chemicals, including for materials and products;
- Addressing pressing environmental and health concerns;
- Simplifying and consolidating the legal framework;
- Providing a comprehensive knowledge base on chemicals; and
- Setting the example for global sound management of chemicals.
The expert group will consist of up to 32 members, with a maximum of:
- The Member State holding the Presidency of the Council of the European Union;
- Ten third-sector organizations in the following areas: health protection, environmental protection, human rights, animal protection, consumer rights, and workers’ rights;
- Eight scientific organizations, academia, and research institutes providing a suitable balance between expertise in fundamental research, applied research, and training/education;
- Ten industries, including small- and medium-sized enterprises (SME) or associations of enterprises, including an adequate representation of frontrunners in the production and use of safe and sustainable chemicals. Those should include chemical industries, downstream users (from different sectors), and retailers; and
- Three international organizations -- the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the World Health Organization (WHO), and the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP).
Interested organizations are invited to submit their applications before March 18, 2021.
By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
On January 12, 2021, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced a memorandum of understanding (MOU) that advances collaboration and communication on EPA’s review of new chemicals under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). EPA states that the MOU provides a framework for coordination and communication between the two agencies on exposure to new chemicals in the workplace and will help achieve the agencies’ shared goal of ensuring workers are protected from potential health and environmental risks. As required by TSCA, EPA and OSHA are collaborating on workplace exposures as part of EPA’s review of new chemicals. The MOU formalizes coordination efforts that EPA and OSHA have already implemented and provides a framework for additional opportunities for collaboration. Highlights of the MOU include:
- Establishing designated staff and management points of contact from each agency to discuss and resolve workplace exposure issues related to EPA’s review of new chemicals;
- Providing OSHA with regular updates on EPA’s new chemical determinations, including any necessary worker protection identified during EPA’s review; and
- Documenting EPA’s role in identifying and notifying OSHA of the need for formal consultation on EPA’s review of new chemicals.
More information will be available in a forthcoming memorandum that will be posted on our website.
By Christopher R. Bryant
The U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) on June 6, 2018, announced two public meetings related to the harmonization of transportation and hazard communication standards with international standards. 83 Fed. Reg. 26338. The first meeting -- led by PHMSA -- will solicit public input on current proposals and items for inclusion in the agenda of the 53rd session of the United Nations Sub-Committee of Experts on the Transport of Dangerous Goods (UNSCOE TDG). The second meeting will be spearheaded by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and will focus on preparation for the 35th session of the United Nations (UN) Sub-Committee of Experts on the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (UNSCEGHS). Both meetings will take place on Tuesday, June 12, 2018, at DOT Headquarters, West Building, Oklahoma City Conference Room, 1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE, Washington, D.C. 20590-0001. The PHMSA meeting is scheduled for 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. (EDT) and the OSHA meeting is scheduled for 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. (EDT). Registration for the meetings is available online. DOT and OSHA will also provide conference call-in and Skype meeting capabilities.
The primary purpose of PHMSA’s meeting is to prepare for the 53rd session of the UNSCOE TDG. UNSCOE will consider proposals for the 21st Revised Edition of the United Nations Recommendations on the Transport of Dangerous Goods (Model Regulations), which may be implemented into relevant domestic, regional, and international regulations from January 1, 2021. Topics on the agenda for the UNSCOE TDG meeting include:
- Explosives and related matters;
- Listing, classification, and packing;
- Electric storage systems;
- Transport of gases;
- Global harmonization of regulations on the Transport of Dangerous Goods with the Model Regulations;
- Guiding principles for the Model Regulations;
- Cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency;
- New proposals for amendments to the Model Regulations;
- Issues relating to the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS); and
- Miscellaneous issues.
OSHA’s meeting will focus on preparation for the 35th session of the UNSCEGHS. It will provide interested groups and individuals with an update on GHS-related issues, as well as solicit input on the development of U.S. positions on proposals submitted to the UNSCEGHS.
The attorneys, scientists, policy experts, and regulatory advisors of Bergeson & Campbell, P.C. (B&C®), The Acta Group (Acta®), and B&C® Consortia Management, L.L.C. (BCCM) endeavor year-round to keep you informed on key developments as they happen, and prepared for looming changes and deadlines, to help you maintain compliance and competitive advantage as you market your products throughout the world. As the new year begins, we offer you this look back at the top stories of 2016 (as measured by clicks, reads, and shares by readers of our blogs and e-mails), a year that was full of surprises and dramatic shifts -- many of which will play out well into the new year.
June 22, 2016
TSCA Reform: An Analysis of Key Provisions and Fundamental Shifts in the Amended TSCA
September 22, 2016
Proposition 65: OEHHA Adopts Revisions to Its Proposition 65 Warning Regulations
August 8, 2016
TSCA Reform: Proposed Changes to SNUR Procedures Would, Perhaps Inadvertently, Result in Disclosure of CBI to Third Parties/Possible Competitors
June 29, 2016
TSCA Reform: EPA Publishes First Year Implementation Plan
April 8, 2015
K-REACH: List of Priority Existing Substances Submitted for Consultation
December 20, 2016
TSCA: EPA Amends Procedures for TSCA Section 6 Rulemaking
January 6, 2016
EPA Releases Preliminary Risk Assessment for Neonicotinoid Insecticide Imidacloprid
January 8, 2016
EPA Sued Over Guidance Classifying Seeds Coated with Neonicotinoid Insecticides as Treated Articles Exempt from Registration under FIFRA
February 10, 2016
Bayer Announces That It Will Not Submit Voluntary Cancellation Requests for Flubendiamide
October 19, 2016
Brazil Delays Promulgation of Final Industrial Chemicals Regulation
October 6, 2015
EPA Announces Revisions to Its Worker Protection Standard
September 28, 2016
EPA Announces Regulatory Determinations on MCANs and PMNs
January 13, 2016
EPA Denies SDA Nomenclature Petition, But Options for Adding Biobased Sources Remain Open
December 1, 2016
Brexit -- An Overview of Transformative Developments and Their Potential Impact on European Chemical Laws
Top Articles Authored by B&C:
Kathleen M. Roberts, Richard E. Engler, Ph.D., Charles M. Auer, Lynn L. Bergeson, "An Analysis of Section 8 of the New Toxic Substances Control Act," BNA Daily Environment Report, August 9, 2016.
Lynn L. Bergeson, Charles M. Auer, "An Analysis of TSCA Reform Provisions Pertinent to Industrial Biotechnology Stakeholders," Industrial Biotechnology, Volume 12, Issue 4, August 2016.
Charles M. Auer, "Old TSCA, New TSCA, and Chemical Testing," BNA Daily Environment Report, August 16, 2016.
L. Bergeson, B. Auerbach, L. Campbell, T. Backstrom, S. Dolan, J. Vergnes, R. Engler, J. Bultena, K. Baron, C. Auer, "The DNA of the U.S. Regulatory System: Are We Getting It Right for Synthetic Biology?," Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars Synthetic Biology Project Report, October 15, 2015.
Coming first quarter 2017 from ABA Books:
Lynn L. Bergeson, Charles M. Auer, New TSCA: A Guide to the Lautenberg Chemical Safety Act and Its Implementation, American Bar Association (2017).
By Lynn L. Bergeson, Charlie M. Auer, and Margaret R. Graham
On October 21, 2016, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reopened the comment period on a proposed rule revising regulations governing significant new uses (SNU) of chemical substances under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), per a request from a commenter. EPA states in its Federal Register notice that this request was “reasonable and is therefore reopening the comment period … [for] all interested persons.” The proposed rule would amend the TSCA SNU regulations to align them with revisions to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) Hazard Communications Standard (HCS), as occasioned by OSHA's March 2012 final rule modifying the HCS to conform to the United Nations' (U.N.) Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS), changes to OSHA’s Respiratory Protection Standard, and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) respirator certification requirements pertaining to respiratory protection of workers from exposure to chemicals. The proposed rule would also amend regulations for SNU rules (SNUR) previously proposed and issued and make a “minor” change to reporting requirements for premanufacture notices (PMN) and other TSCA Section 5 notices.
The brief notice reopening the comment period does little to reinforce the magnitude and consequences of these proposed changes. Our memorandum TSCA: Proposed Revisions to Significant New Use Rules Reflect Current Occupational Safety and Health Standards provides a detailed account of the significant and complex issues that these changes raise, briefly reiterated here:
- The challenges in aligning labeling, as well as legal and regulatory ambiguities. EPA has devoted considerable effort to clarifying the application of HCS/GHS requirements to Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) but unresolved issues still remain. The implementation of these revisions will most likely present similar challenges.
- EPA’s use of the hierarchy of controls (HOC) approach in the significant new use provisions, even though Congress did not include this approach in new TSCA. The wisdom of the inclusion of the HOC approach, even though we recognize and appreciate the importance of HOC as an element in a system to manage or eliminate occupational risks, is questionable and inconsistent.
- Whether or not EPA's review considered the possibility that new TSCA may materially impact the content of the proposal. There are signs, such as EPA’s inclusion of old TSCA citations, that point to them not having done this review, and there are no reassurances from EPA that new TSCA’s potential impacts were considered.
Our memorandum TSCA Reform: Proposed Changes to SNUR Procedures Would, Perhaps Inadvertently, Result in Disclosure of CBI to Third Parties/Possible Competitors also brings to light another important legal issue, concerning interesting anomalies that appear in the proposal's discussion of bona fide requests and the disclosure of information potentially considered confidential. EPA proposes to modify the procedures for determining if a specific substance or chemical use is subject to a SNUR when the substance, production volume, or use is claimed as confidential business information (CBI). The source of EPA’s authority to disclose CBI in the ways described in the proposed rule is unclear, as neither old nor new TSCA specifies them, such as the statutory basis and rationale for informing a bona fide intent notice (BFN) submitter of confidential use or production volume conditions. Also, EPA does not justify why disclosure to the BFN submitter is necessary. The current proposed SNUR provides for neither equal disclosure nor equal confidentiality as a result of BFN submission.
By Lynn L. Bergeson and Margaret R. Graham
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed on July 28, 2016, revisions to the regulations governing significant new uses of chemical substances under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) with revisions to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) Hazard Communications Standard (HCS) occasioned by OSHA’s March 2012 final rule modifying the HCS to conform to the United Nations’ (U.N.) Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS), changes to OSHA’s Respiratory Protection Standard, and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) respirator certification requirements pertaining to respiratory protection of workers from exposure to chemicals. EPA states that it is also proposing changes to regulations based on issues that it identified, as well as issues raised by public commenters, for significant new use rules (SNUR) previously proposed and issued under these regulations. Additionally, EPA claims to propose a “minor” change to reporting requirements for premanufacture notices (PMN) and other TSCA Section 5 notices. EPA states that it expects the changes “to have minimal impacts on the costs and burdens of complying, while updating the significant new use reporting requirements to assist in addressing any potential effects to human health and the environment.” Comments are due September 26, 2016.
The revisions include:
- Proposed Changes to 40 C.F.R. Section 721.63, Protection in the Workplace;
- Proposed Changes to 40 C.F.R. Section 721.72, Hazard Communication Program;
- Clarification of the Use of 40 C.F.R. Section 721.80, Industrial Commercial and Consumer Activities;
- Proposed Changes to 40 C.F.R. Section 721.91, Computation of Estimated Surface Water Concentrations: Instructions;
- Proposed Changes to 40 C.F.R. Section 721.11, Determining Whether a Chemical Substance or a Specific Use Is Subject to This Part When the Chemical Substance Identity or Significant New Use Is Confidential;
- Proposed Changes for Submission of SDS(s) with PMNs, SNUNs, Low Volume Exemptions (LVE), Low Release and Exposure Exemptions (LoREX), and Test Marketing Exemption (TME) Applications; and
- Fixing Typographical Errors and Other Non-Substantive Changes.
Although the notice downplays them, the proposal raises significant and complex issues. There may well be good reasons for several of the proposed changes. The minimal discussion provided in the notice and the lack of adequate public debate having occurred prior to its issuance raise troubling questions about the legal basis for, scope of, and complexity of the proposed changes, some of which may apply retroactively. The confusion the proposal can be expected to cause could have been avoided had adequate discussion preceded its publication, or at the least EPA could have raised these issues in the proposed rule’s preamble to focus stakeholders’ attention appropriately.
More information is available in our memorandum TSCA: Proposed Revisions to Significant New Use Rules Reflect Current Occupational Safety and Health Standards.