EPA Removes Exemption on Reporting Releases of Hydrogen Sulfide Under TRI

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By Pat Ware

The Environmental Protection Agency is lifting a 16-year-old administrative stay that had exempted industrial facilities from reporting releases of hydrogen sulfide, saying the substance could cause chronic health effects in humans.

The action, to be announced in the Federal Register Oct. 17, means that facilities that produce hydrogen sulfide, including chemical manufacturers, power plants, petroleum refineries, mining operations, and other industries, as well as federal facilities, must comply with a December 1993 rule requiring them to report releases of the substance as a toxic chemical under Section 313 of the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act.

EPA said it is lifting the stay because its technical evaluations since 1993 show that hydrogen sulfide can “reasonably be anticipated” to cause serious or irreversible chronic human health effects at relatively low doses and thus is considered to have moderately high to high chronic toxicity. Among the chronic ill effects are respiratory and neurotoxic disease.

The chemical also can reasonably be expected to cause adverse effects in aquatic organisms, EPA said.

Reports Due July 1, 2013

The lifting of the stay will take effect Oct. 17, and the first reports on hydrogen sulfide will be due July 1, 2013, for reporting year 2012, EPA said.

Less than a year after the rule was finalized, EPA in August 1994 issued an administrative stay of the reporting requirements for the chemical because of concerns brought by some in the regulated community about EPA's basis for determining human health effects. The 1993 rule remained in force during the stay while the reporting requirements were deferred, according to EPA.

EPA said it continued to evaluate health effects during the stay.

EPA announced its intent to lift the stay Feb. 26, 2010, saying it still believed the chemical warranted reporting under the Toxics Release Inventory Program under EPCRA (37 DEN A-3, 2/26/10).

The notice to lift the stay was sent for review to the White House Office of Management and Budget in October 2010 (210 DEN A-1, 11/2/10))

Public Comments on Delisting

Russ White, manager of health sciences for the American Petroleum Institute, told BNA Oct. 14 his organization objects to EPA's most recent action on procedural grounds. In 1994, the agency said it would request public comments on whether hydrogen sulfide should be deleted from the Toxics Release Inventory list, he said.

“They're not taking comment on it—they didn't follow the process” they set out, he said.

In the Oct. 17 Federal Register notice, EPA said it disagrees with commenters who said it must revisit the original listing decision in the context of EPA's consideration of lifting the administrative stay.

“Based on our current review of the science, as presented in EPA's technical evaluation of hydrogen sulfide … EPA has determined there is no need to re-visit the existing listing determination,” the agency said.

Specific information on the lifting of the stay for hydrogen sulfide is available from Daniel R. Bushman at (202) 566-0743 or bushman.daniel@epa.gov .

General information on EPCRA Section 313 is available from the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know hotline at (800) 424-9346.