White House Reviewing EPA Plan to Require Reporting of Hydrogen Sulfide Releases

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The White House is reviewing an Environmental Protection Agency notice that would lift a 16-year-old administrative stay that exempted industrial facilities from the requirement to report releases of hydrogen sulfide.

EPA sent the notice to the Office of Management and Budget Oct. 28, according to a posting on the OMB website. OMB review is generally the last step in the regulatory process before EPA issues rules and other policy notices.

The stay applies to a final rule EPA issued in 1993 that required chemical manufacturers, power plants, petroleum refineries, mining operations, and other industrial facilities to annually report releases of hydrogen sulfide, along with 20 other chemicals and two chemical categories, in accordance with Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act.

Lifting the stay would mean these types of facilities would have to report annual releases of hydrogen sulfide as part of their Toxics Release Inventory requirements.

EPA issued an administrative stay of the reporting requirements for hydrogen sulfide in 1994 to allow it to address concerns the regulated community raised about scientific data that became available after the final rule was issued.

EPA completed a review of hydrogen sulfide in 2003 under its Integrated Risk Information System program. IRIS reviews constitute the agency's consensus position on the human health hazards of chemicals and the doses at which those hazards could occur.

On Feb. 26, EPA published a notice saying it still believed that hydrogen sulfide warranted reporting under the TRI program (75 Fed. Reg. 8889; 37 DEN A-3, 2/26/10).

Exposure to hydrogen sulfide has caused irreversible harmful neurological effects and killed people, EPA said. The chemical also is harmful to aquatic life, EPA said.

In its regulatory agenda, EPA said it plans to issue a final action by the end of December.

According to EPA, the primary uses of hydrogen sulfide include the production of elemental sulfur and sulfuric acid and the manufacture of heavy water and other chemicals. It also is used in metallurgy; and as an analytical reagent. In agriculture, it is used as a disinfectant.

Occupational exposure to hydrogen sulfide occurs primarily from its presence in petroleum, natural gas, soil, and sewer gas and as a byproduct of chemical reactions, e.g., viscose rayon and certain leather tanning processes, EPA said.

Hydrogen sulfide gas is a natural product of decaying organic matter. In residential settings it is most commonly the result of decomposition in septic and sewer systems.

By Pat Rizzuto

Information on EPA's plan to require reporting of hydrogen sulfide releases is available at http://www.reginfo.gov/public/do/eAgendaViewRule?pubId=201004&RIN=2025-AA27