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By Pat Rizzuto
March 26 --Chemical manufacturers are urging the Environmental Protection Agency to apply Toxic Substances Control Act policies consistently to both biobased and petroleum-based chemical mixtures as it finalizes a proposed rule that would restrict uses of six chemicals designed for renewable fuels.
“The agency's decision on these six chemical mixtures is one of several situations in which the agency could decide to regulate biobased chemicals more stringently than it does the traditional petroleum-based compounds they are designed to replace or supplement,” Kathleen Roberts, executive director of the Biobased Products Advocacy Consortium (B2PAC), told Bloomberg BNA March 25.
In this case, she said, a diverse group of biobased and petroleum-based chemical manufacturers all are urging the agency to apply consistently long-standing policies the agency has used to evaluate chemicals under TSCA. The companies and trade associations include the American Chemistry Council, the American Petroleum Institute, B2PAC and Chevron.
The EPA is reviewing the industry comments and anticipates making a decision later this year, the agency told Bloomberg BNA March 25.
The comments on the proposed SNURS were submitted through http://www.regulations.gov under Docket No. EPA-HQ-OPPT-2012-0740.
At issue are six significant new use rules (SNURs) that the EPA proposed in 2013.
The proposed rules would apply restrictions--such as worker safety requirements and a five parts per billion (ppb) surface-water concentration limit--to any company making the chemicals.
If a company didn't comply with the restrictions, the EPA would deem its production of the chemicals to be a new use. The manufacturer would then have to notify the agency 90 days before the intended use to allow the EPA to evaluate its safety.
All six chemicals went into production March 6, 2013, with the original manufacturer, the name of which is classified as confidential business information under TSCA, signing a consent order restricting its use of the chemicals.
The six chemicals are types of a broad class of compounds known as unknown or variable compositions, complex reaction products and biological materials (UVCB) substances or Class 2 substances.
Traditionally, the EPA evaluates UVCB substances based on the entire toxicological database the agency has for them, the American Petroleum Institute wrote in its comments.
That means it doesn't single out a particular chemical within the complex mixture and base its regulatory decisions on that single constituent, it said.
For the proposed SNURs, however, the EPA based its hazard assessment solely on the potential presence of a trace benzene constituent of these complex substances, the oil institute wrote.
That approach was inconsistent with the agency's long-standing practice under the TSCA program, it said.
“The agency, therefore, should have evaluated the available toxicity data for similar petroleum-based substances to assess the potential hazards associated with these substances rather than base its determination solely on the toxicological profile of benzene,” it wrote.
“EPA's decision to deviate from its traditional view of Class 2 substances, by focusing on the hazards associated with one constituent of the substance rather than the substance as a whole, has led to an illogical outcome,” the National Oilseed Processors Association wrote.
“[A]t least some of the substances covered by the SNURs actually have a lower benzene content than the analogous petroleum fuels,” the oilseed processors wrote. “Yet under the SNURs, these substances would be subject to more stringent personal protective equipment and HazCom requirements than their petroleum-based analogues.
“At face value,” it continued, “at least, this result seems to be inconsistent with common notions of sound science.”
The association said it doesn't represent companies that make the six chemicals but commented because it is interested in EPA actions that could affect regulations of Class 2 substances.
The six biobased chemicals that would be covered under the proposed SNURs are similar in composition and intended use to existing chemicals derived from petroleum, Roberts of B2PAC wrote. The biobased products consortium also doesn't represent the manufacturer of the chemicals, she added.
The requirements placed on the companies that would work with the biobased chemicals would be more stringent and the material safety data sheets that would accompany them would suggest the biobased chemicals pose greater risks than the petroleum-based chemicals they would replace, she wrote.
“This will cause unnecessary confusion,” Roberts wrote.
“No valid scientific basis exists for imposing these measures, and EPA's failure to provide any rational explanation for these regulatory choices make them arbitrary and capricious,” she said.
As the agency evaluates other new Class 2 chemicals, the class into which biobased chemicals often fall, other examples are occurring in which the new chemicals are disadvantaged, Roberts told Bloomberg BNA. She declined to provide further examples, saying the agency is still reaching decisions it will later propose.
The proposed SNURs would undermine federal policies encouraging renewable fuels and other chemicals because they would handicap renewable fuels compared with conventional fuels, the American Chemistry Council wrote.
To contact the reporter on this story: Pat Rizzuto in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Larry Pearl at email@example.com
The EPA's proposed SNURs along with the agency's analyses underlying them and comments made concerning them are available via Docket No. EPA-HQ-OPPT-2012-0740 at http://www.regulations.gov.
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