Bergeson & Campbell, P.C. (B&C®) is a Washington, D.C., law firm providing biobased and renewable chemical product stakeholders unparalleled experience, judgment, and excellence in bringing innovative products to market.

By Lynn L. Bergeson

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.

Bergeson & Campbell, P.C. Commentary

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 Richard E. Engler, Ph.D.

In the 21st century, we take as given a continuous stream of new and better products. From electronics to building materials to transportation solutions, the flow of new and better products and applications seems unending. New chemical substances play a fundamental role in creating those products and making existing products better. If the pipeline of new chemicals were closed off, the flow of new products and applications would slow to a trickle and eventually dry up. Modern life as we know it would not exist without the continued invention, production, and use of new chemicals.

In the United States, all new chemicals must be reviewed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) before they can enter commerce. The Agency looks at new chemicals to determine whether their manufacturing, processing, and use would adversely affect people or the environment. If EPA identifies risks that it determines to be unreasonable, then it either prohibits use of the chemical, or requires restrictions on the chemical to control for risks. Since the 1970s, tens of thousands of chemicals have come through EPA for review and have been allowed into U.S. commerce.

In this article, Richard E. Engler, Ph.D. and Jeffery T. Morris, Ph.D. write that more robust consideration of a new chemical’s potential to prevent pollution and lower risks could help achieve the right balance between safety and innovation. The full article is available at https://chemicalwatch.com/220164/guest-column-why-the-us-epa-can-and-should-evaluate-the-risk-reducing-role-a-new-chemical-may-play-if-allowed-on-the-market (subscription required).


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Ligia Duarte Botelho, M.A.

EPA announced that it is extending the public comment period on proposed updates to the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) Fees Rule to give stakeholders more time to review and comment. The current comment period was set to close on February 25, 2021. Comments are now due on March 27, 2021. Information on the proposed updates is available in the Bergeson & Campbell, P.C. (B&C®) December 30, 2020, memorandum, “EPA Intends Proposed Rule to Increase Flexibility and Reduce Burdens under TSCA Fees Program.”

On February 18, 2021, EPA held a virtual public meeting on the TSCA Fees Rule, allowing stakeholders to provide input on the proposed rulemaking. One of the main concerns by industry stakeholders was related to fees collection under TSCA Section 4. Stakeholders reported that EPA should not collect such fees under Section 4 because the same fees are collected under Section 5. The Alliance for Automotive Innovation proposed instead a tiered fees structure, given that the rule as proposed includes downstream user fees, which would double fees within the supply chain.

On the other hand, representatives from the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) expressed opposition to the exemptions outlined in the proposed rule and criticized EPA for relying on voluntary information requests.

Tags: TSCA, Fees

 

By Lynn L. Bergeson 

EPA published on February 8, 2021, a periodic update of the TSCA confidential business information (CBI) review statistics. TSCA Section 14(g)(1) requires that EPA, within 90 days of receipt of a CBI claim:

  • Review and make determinations on CBI claims for chemical identity after the chemical substance has been offered for commercial distribution; and
     
  • Review and make determinations on a representative subset of at least 25 percent of other CBI claims that are not exempt from substantiation and review.

The updated data summarize the number of CBI cases under review and results of completed reviews through December 28, 2020. In addition, a spreadsheet is available showing the details of completed TSCA CBI determinations through December 28, 2020.

EPA states that making this information publicly available continues to demonstrate its commitment to transparency while fulfilling its responsibilities under TSCA. EPA notes that it has established numerous new processes, systems, and procedures to enable submitters to provide the information required when making confidentiality claims and to facilitate EPA’s review, and where applicable, determinations on these claims.

Tags: TSCA, CBI

 

By  Lynn L. Bergeson 

On January 11, 2021, EPA published a proposed rule that would amend the 2018 Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) fees rule. 86 Fed. Reg. 1890. Under TSCA, EPA collects fees from chemical manufacturers and processors to help fund implementation and to ensure that public health and the environment continue to be protected. TSCA requires EPA to review its fees every three years and, after consulting with parties potentially subject to the fees, to adjust the fees if necessary. The proposed rule describes the proposed modifications to the TSCA fees and fee categories for fiscal years 2022, 2023, and 2024 and explains the methodology by which these TSCA fees were determined. The proposed updates include:

  • Regarding EPA-initiated risk evaluations, narrowing the scope of the TSCA fees rule by exempting from the requirement to pay fees importers of articles containing a chemical substance, companies that produce a chemical as a byproduct or manufacture or import as an impurity, companies that manufacture or import a chemical in de minimis amounts, companies that manufacture or import chemicals solely for R&D purposes, and companies that produce a chemical as a non-isolated intermediate;
     
  • Using cost data gathered over the past two years, instead of estimates, to update the fee calculations;
     
  • Ensuring fees are fairly and appropriately shared across companies by proposing a production-volume based fee allocation and including export-only manufacturers for EPA-initiated risk evaluations;
     
  • Allowing for corrections to be made to the list of manufacturers subject to fees for EPA-initiated risk evaluations after the final list is published, ensuring the accuracy of the list;
     
  • Increasing flexibility for companies by extending the amount of time to form consortia to share in fee payments;
     
  • Ensuring that EPA can fully collect fees and enabling companies to prepare better for paying fees by allowing payments in installments for EPA-initiated and manufacturer-requested risk evaluations (MRRE); and
     
  • Adding three new fee categories, two associated with new chemical activities and one associated with test orders.
     

Comments are due February 25, 2021. More information is available in our December 30, 2020, memorandum, “EPA Intends Proposed Rule to Increase Flexibility and Reduce Burdens under TSCA Fees Program.

Tags: TSCA, Fees

 

By  Lynn L. Bergeson 

On December 21, 2020, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a pre-publication notice of proposed updates to the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) Fees Rule. Specifically, the proposed updates to the original 2018 TSCA Fees Rule include:

  • Narrowing the scope of the rule by exempting importers of articles containing a chemical substance, companies that produce a chemical as a byproduct or manufacture or import as an impurity, companies that produce a chemical in de minimis amounts, companies that use chemicals solely for research and development (R&D) purposes, and companies that manufacture a chemical that is produced as a non-isolated intermediate from fees;
     
  • Using cost data gathered over the past two years, instead of estimates, to update the fee calculations;
     
  • Ensuring fees are fairly and appropriately shared across companies by proposing a production-volume based fee allocation and including export-only manufacturers for EPA-initiated risk evaluations;
     
  • Allowing for corrections to be made to the list of manufacturers subject to fees for EPA-initiated risk evaluations after the final list is published, ensuring the accuracy of the list;
     
  • Increasing flexibility for companies by extending the amount of time to form consortia to share in fee payments;
     
  • Ensuring that EPA can fully collect fees and enabling companies to prepare better for paying fees by allowing payments in installments for EPA-initiated and manufacturer-requested risk evaluations; and
     
  • Adding new fee categories associated with new chemicals activities.

EPA will accept public comments on the proposal for 45 days after its publication in the Federal Register. Further details are available here, and a Bergeson & Campbell, P.C. (B&C®) commentary can be accessed here.


 

By  Lynn L. Bergeson 

EPA announced on January 5, 2021, that it is reopening the reporting period under the TSCA Inventory notification active-inactive rule where companies identified chemicals that were manufactured, imported, or processed in the United States during the ten-year time period ending on June 21, 2016. As reported in our June 26, 2017, memorandum, “EPA Issues Final TSCA Framework Rules,” the final TSCA Inventory notification (active-inactive) rule established a retrospective electronic notification of chemical substances on the TSCA Inventory that were manufactured (including imported) for nonexempt commercial purposes during the ten-year time period ending on June 21, 2016, with provision to also allow notification by processors. From August 11, 2017, through October 5, 2018, chemical manufacturers and processors provided information on which chemicals were manufactured, imported, or processed in the United States over the past ten years. The reporting period included an opportunity for submitters to assert claims to retain specific chemical identities as confidential business information (CBI). In May 2020, EPA posted an interim list of chemicals expected to lose their CBI status and move to the public portion of the TSCA Inventory. In its January 5, 2021, announcement, EPA states that it has since become aware of “submitter confusion and issues regarding CBI claims” during the initial reporting period. EPA is allowing companies to submit, amend, or withdraw filings under the TSCA Inventory notification (active-inactive) rule to maintain existing CBI claims for specific chemical identity. The reporting period will reopen 30 days after publication in the Federal Register and run for 60 days after that date.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On November 25, 2020, EPA announced the amendment of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) Chemical Data Reporting (CDR) regulations by extending the submission deadline for 2020 reports. CDR submissions are now due on January 29, 2021. According to EPA, this is the final extension, and it only applies to 2020 submissions. CDR regulations require manufacturers of certain chemical substances included on the TSCA Chemical Substance Inventory to report data on the manufacturing, processing, and use of chemical substances.

To assist chemical manufacturers and processors with submitting CDR data, Bergeson & Campbell, P.C.’s (B&C®) affiliate The Acta Group (Acta®) developed CDR Cross-Check, an ingenious and cost-efficient tool to identify whether a company’s chemicals are subject to CDR and at what reporting threshold. CDR Cross-Check will identify:

  • Whether the chemical is listed as active or inactive;
  • Whether the chemical was subject to specific TSCA regulatory actions in 2016;
  • Whether the chemical is exempt; and
  • What the reporting thresholds are based on the updated data released by EPA on May 29, 2020.

Visit the CDR Cross-Check page on the Acta website for a sample report and information on how to use CDR Cross-Check.

Tags: TSCA, CDR, Deadline

 

We are pleased to announce that the American Bar Association (ABA) Section of Environment, Energy, and Resources published an article written by Lynn L. Bergeson and Eve C. Gartner entitled “The essentials of TSCA practice” in the November/December 2020 issue of Trends. According to the authors, legal practitioners should be aware of the commercial, legal, and reputational implications of TSCA as amended by the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act in 2016. The authors state that TSCA’s expanded commercial reach “is an important, consequential, and growing practice area.” The authors note that “[c]ommunity organizations representing populations at greater risk of harm from chemicals should also be aware that TSCA may offer much-needed protections.”

Tags: TSCA, ABA

 

After reading the article below by Jeffery Morris, former Director of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics (OPPT), we were inspired to post it. We appreciate having the opportunity to share his analysis with our audience.

TSCA as a Gap-Filling Statute: Potentially Exposed and Susceptible Subpopulations

By Jeffery Morris, PhD

In its response to public comments on the scope documents for its next twenty chemical risk evaluations conducted under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has asserted that TSCA is a “gap-filling statute” for the regulation of chemical substances in the United States (US EPA, Summary of Public Comments Received on the Draft Scopes of the Risk Evaluations for Twenty Chemical Substances Under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), August 2020, p. 13). This assertion relates to the regulatory nexus between TSCA and other federal statutes. At issue regarding regulatory nexus is whether TSCA’s role is to: (1) fill gaps where issues are not addressed by other laws that regulate chemicals1, (2) serve as the nation’s primary and preeminent statute for chemicals, or (3) operate somewhere between these two positions. Inherent in the TSCA-as-gap-filler position is the view that federal laws should work together to advance the public welfare, and that different environmental statutes have their own strengths in how they govern the impact of chemicals on people and the environment.

TSCA requires the consideration of potentially exposed or susceptible subpopulations in the EPA’s evaluation of chemicals. While TSCA is not the only environmental law with provisions for susceptible or vulnerable subpopulations, the direct, repeated emphasis across multiple sections of the law that the EPA consider potentially exposed or susceptible subpopulations may be unique in US environmental law. Therefore, how the EPA meets this requirement with respect to other laws’ treatment of such populations is an important consideration for regulatory nexus. Key questions regarding regulatory nexus and TSCA’s role are how to go about identifying whether other statutes leave gaps in this area for TSCA to fill and if they do, how those gaps should be filled in the EPA’s chemical evaluations.

The recently released final scope documents and the accompanying response-to-comments document do not fully answer these questions, including regarding comments that have been raised about how the EPA will apply exposure and susceptibility considerations to people living in communities located near high concentrations of chemicals-related activity. My hope is that exploring these questions now can help inform a path forward for further addressing comments the EPA has received on potentially exposed or susceptible subpopulations as the twenty draft risk evaluations are developed, as well as in scope documents for future chemicals brought into the TSCA prioritization process.

In its response to scope document comments, the EPA makes two important statements regarding the regulatory nexus issue as applied to potentially exposed or susceptible subpopulations. The first, on page 13, is that “EPA believes that coordinated action on exposure pathways and risks addressed by other EPA-administered statutes and regulatory programs is consistent with statutory text and legislative history, particularly as they pertain to TSCA’s function as a ‘gap-filling’ statute ….” In the second statement, also on page 13, the EPA adds that “[t]o the extent that specific exposure pathways are not under the jurisdiction of other EPA-administered statutes and associated regulatory programs, EPA plans to evaluate those exposures in the risk evaluations for the individual substances.”

The first statement’s focus on “coordinated action” between laws and regulations with respect to chemical evaluation and management is a crucial consideration for regulatory nexus. Coordination by the EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention (OCSPP), which administers TSCA, with other EPA offices that manage statutes that address chemicals, as well as with other federal agencies that implement laws impacting chemicals, is good government practice. What is missing from the final scope documents, and therefore would be a valuable addition to the chemical-specific dockets, is a detailed description of the type of coordination cited in the response to comments. Ideally, this description would appear in the scope documents, but for these twenty chemicals an addition to the dockets would be helpful. For example, the EPA could strengthen its explanation of whether potential exposures or susceptibilities are based on geography (e.g., exposures are higher in a particular location), biology (e.g., a particular population has a genetic or otherwise biologically based predisposition to suffer adverse effects from exposure to a chemical), or cultural/societal factors (e.g., a cultural or community practice results in exposure potential greater than in the general population, or an attribute of the subpopulation’s location in society, such as having low income or poor access to health care, creates susceptibilities to adverse effects from chemical exposure).

Because some comments on community exposures refer specifically to 1,3-butadiene, it is a useful example to illustrate the challenges and opportunities presented by the coordination the EPA is conducting within the regulatory nexus construct; it also can illustrate what I mean by a detailed description of cross-office coordination on potentially exposed or susceptible subpopulations. This example looks at just one of 1,3-butadiene’s uses: in the production of tires. Under its Clean Air Act (CAA) authority, the EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation (OAR) conducted a Residual Risk Assessment for the Rubber Tire Manufacturing Source Category in Support of the 2020 Risk and Technology Review Final Rule (EPA-HQ-OAR-2019-0392-0047, February 2020) that includes 1,3-butadiene within this source category, among numerous other chemical substances designated as hazardous air pollutants (HAP). This assessment supports a July 24, 2020, final rule, National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants: Rubber Tire Manufacturing Residual Risk and Technology Review (EPA-HQ-OAR-2019-0392; FRL 10008-48-OAR, 85 FR 44752, July 24, 2020).

The coordination challenge, therefore, is to crosswalk the CAA review, which covers numerous HAPs within one sector, with a TSCA risk evaluation covering the conditions of use of a single HAP chemical across multiple sectors. On page 49 of the 1,3-butadiene TSCA scope document, the EPA states that air emission pathways are covered under the CAA (Final Scope of the Risk Evaluation for 1,3-Butadiene, EPA Document # EPA-740-R-20-011, August 2020). It would be useful for the 1,3-butadiene record to include a table and/or narrative that describes how, for its TSCA coordination on the consideration of potentially exposed or susceptible subpopulations, OCSPP evaluated the 1,3-butadiene conditions of use against the respective source category-based and any other analyses conducted by OAR that included 1,3-butadiene. Such a crosswalk could serve as a best practice for application of regulatory nexus analysis in the implementation of TSCA. It would also aid in transparency to the public around a very complex but important concept: that although different environmental statutes may use different approaches (e.g., sector or source category versus individual chemical analysis), it is possible to coordinate their respective contributions to chemical evaluation and management so that, if gaps exist, TSCA can play its appropriate role in health and environmental protection.

For instance, OAR’s 2020 final rule states that “the percentage of the population potentially impacted by Rubber Tire Manufacturing emissions is greater than its corresponding nationwide percentage for: African Americans (25 percent for the source category compared to 12 percent nationwide) and below the poverty level (21 percent for the source category compared to 14 percent nationwide)” (page 44759). Strong coordination between TSCA and the CAA would suggest that such information obtained through CAA activities would be helpful to OCSPP in determining how to address the “potentially exposed or susceptible subpopulations” considerations required under TSCA section 6, including as they may apply to TSCA’s gap-filler role in addressing comments to the 1,3-butadiene scope document concerning disproportionate exposure to communities located near high concentrations of chemicals-related activity.

This consideration leads to the EPA’s statement in its response-to-comments document that where there is not overlap with another regulatory jurisdiction, the EPA will evaluate the exposures. Using the above TSCA-CAA coordination example for 1,3-butadiene, a question for OCSPP could be whether the TSCA requirement that the EPA consider potentially exposed or susceptible subpopulations in its risk evaluations is covered by the work done by OAR on 1,3-butadiene, specifically with respect to commenters’ input on community-based impacts. One would assume “covered” to mean that this particular aspect of TSCA’s potentially exposed or susceptible subpopulations requirement has been evaluated and addressed in OAR’s CAA activities, and therefore can be excluded from the 1,3-butadiene risk evaluation. However, if the CAA has not addressed this particular TSCA requirement in a manner or to an extent intended by the best read of TSCA’s language regarding the consideration of those potentially exposed or susceptible subpopulations in a particular chemical risk evaluation, then there exists a gap that TSCA, as a gap-filling statute, should address.

The manner in which a TSCA risk evaluation fills any identified gaps is also important. This again will require careful and transparent coordination and analysis between statutes. In its chemical risk evaluations, EPA would presumably want to fill gaps in ways that meet the specific requirements of TSCA for potentially exposed or susceptible subpopulations, without doing so in a manner that is at odds with other statutes’ treatment of a chemical substance under TSCA evaluation. Not only would this careful gap filling be in general sound government practice, but it also would help avoid difficulties if the risk evaluation identifies unreasonable risks that the EPA determines, under TSCA section 9, should be addressed under a law other than TSCA.

The 1,3-butadiene example shows how greater explanation, preferably in scoping documents, on how the EPA coordinates among its offices and other agencies to make regulatory nexus decisions for TSCA risk evaluations can not only provide greater transparency to the public on individual chemical evaluations, but also can inform broader discussions on regulatory nexus by showing how such coordination can identify gaps that TSCA is best situated to fill. For some chemicals, it may be the case that other statutes have already adequately assessed the risks to potentially exposed or susceptible subpopulations, obviating the need for additional analysis in a TSCA risk evaluation. However, the mere existence of another statute with jurisdiction over a particular environmental pathway or human exposure scenario for a chemical substance subject to TSCA review should not lead to an a priori assumption that there is not an evaluation gap for TSCA to fill. Any assumptions about other statutes’ coverage of TSCA’s chemical evaluation requirements should be explored, tested, and fully described in TSCA chemical scope documents or elsewhere in the risk evaluation record. This is particularly important with potentially exposed or susceptible subpopulations, given TSCA’s unique approach to requiring their consideration in chemical prioritization, evaluation, and management. I would argue that a good starting point for articulating TSCA’s gap-filling role is in the application of these requirements to people living near high concentrations of chemicals-related activity.

1 By “chemicals” I refer in this article to chemicals regulated under TSCA, and not to chemicals that are regulated under other federal statutes, such as pesticides, drugs, and food additives.


 
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