EPA Releases Chemical Data Reporting Rule With New Requirements Set to Start Feb. 1

The Environmental Protection Agency issued a final rule Aug. 2 that requires greatly expanded and more frequent data reporting from manufacturers and importers for a great many chemicals.

The rule modifies existing requirements for reporting of data on production volume, use, and exposure, and it will require processing and use-related data for a larger number of chemicals. The first reporting period under the new rule will be from Feb. 1 to June 30, 2012.

The rule also requires that companies submit the information to EPA electronically, and it limits confidentiality claims by companies.

Rather than providing a “snapshot” of one year's chemical production data every five years as currently required, the new rule will require companies to report every four years, and the reports on production volumes must cover each of the four preceding calendar years.

The reporting will be phased in by requiring only two years of data to be submitted early in 2012, after which a regular cycle of reporting four years of data will start with the next reporting period.

Reports on chemical use and exposure will cover one year every four years—that one year being the calendar year immediately preceding the reporting period.

The rule amends the Inventory Update Reporting (IUR) Rule under the Toxic Substances Control Act and changes its name to the Chemical Data Reporting (CDR) Rule. The final rule is expected to be published in the Federal Register the week of Aug. 8.

The rule will affect not only manufacturers and importers, but users and processors who manufacture a byproduct chemical substance. EPA cited utilities, paper manufacturers, primary metal manufacturers, and electronic component manufacturers as examples of such users and processors.

Thresholds Cut, Reporting Years Set

Thresholds for triggering certain reporting requirements will be lowered by the new rule—in some cases starting with the 2012 reporting period and in other cases not beginning until the next reporting period, in 2016.

Manufacturers and importers who now have a threshold of 300,000 pounds per year per site for reporting processing and use information will see the threshold drop to 100,000 pounds in 2012 and 25,000 pounds in 2016. That will match the 25,000-pound threshold that already exists for production volume reporting.

Chemicals that currently are subject to particular TSCA rules or orders will see the 25,000-pound threshold per site for reporting cut to 2,500 pounds starting in 2016.

In the 2012 reporting period, chemical companies will be required to report the production volume for calendar years 2010 and 2011. Chemical companies had been worried that EPA would also require reporting in 2012 of volumes for 2006-2009, posing a burden on suppliers for retroactive data collection (35 CRR 269, 3/14/11).

Starting with the 2016 reporting period, companies will have to report production volumes for each of the calendar years since the last “principal reporting year.” That will mean reporting volumes for 2012 through 2015 in the 2016 reporting period. Subsequent reporting periods will involve similar four-year data requirements.

The submission of a chemical production report will be required if production volume met or exceeded the 25,000-pound threshold per site in any one of the four preceding calendar years in that cycle.

The “principal reporting year,” in EPA's revised jargon, will be the calendar year immediately preceding a reporting period—the year 2011 for the early 2012 reporting period, for example. The principal reporting year will be the one year in each four-year cycle for which chemical use and exposure data are submitted.

Changes Praised, With Caveats

“In general, I think it represents a dramatic improvement over the status quo,” Richard Denison, senior scientist at the advocacy group Environmental Defense Fund, said. “We have been pressing for significant improvements in this program for many years.”

Mike Walls, vice president of regulatory and technical affairs at the American Chemistry Council, said industry officials were particularly pleased that EPA had shown itself responsive to their concerns about the practical details of inaugurating new reporting requirements. The phased approach to reporting additional production volumes and to lowering thresholds reflected a pragmatism that would serve everyone better, he said.

Walls stressed that the industry did not oppose the basic idea of better reporting, which he said could enhance public confidence and allow EPA to do a better job of prioritizing chemicals for further regulatory review. Industry's concern after seeing the rule in its proposed stage was that the agency might try to insist on too much additional data too abruptly, he indicated.

Denison expressed some disappointment that the additional reporting requirements and thresholds did not take immediate effect, given the importance of making basic information available in order to assess health and environmental risks.

Electronic Reports Required

Electronic reporting will be mandatory, using an EPA-provided, web-based reporting tool for submitting reports through the Internet to the agency's Central Data Exchange. Paper submissions will no longer be accepted.

Walls, cautioning that EPA's electronic data reporting system is not yet fully developed, said the chemical industry would work closely with EPA to get that system ready for the Feb. 1 start of reporting.

The rule also will require greater efforts from chemical manufacturers and importers in providing data on the consumer and commercial uses of chemicals. Instead of requiring only “readily obtainable” data, EPA is setting a higher reporting standard, requiring data “known to or reasonable ascertainable by” companies.

Companies will no longer be able to use “other” as a simple catch-all category when a chemical's use does not fit a specified category. A company now will have to provide a description of what that “other” use is.

By Alan Kovski  

The final Chemical Data Reporting Rule is available in prepublication form at http://www.epa.gov/iur/pubs/Prepublication_IUR%20Mods_FRM_SIGNED_2011-08-01.pdf .  

Additional information on the rule is available at http://www.epa.gov/iur .