Clock Starts Ticking to Keep Chemicals in Commerce

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By Pat Rizzuto

Chemical makers and importers that want to keep their products on the market must notify the EPA by February 2018 about the chemicals they have made during the past decade.

A final inventory notification rule (RIN:2070-AK24) the Environmental Protection Agency will publish Aug. 11 also establishes procedures companies will have to follow as they ask the EPA to keep certain information confidential. Examples could include a chemical’s specific identity or a company’s identity as the manufacturer of a specific chemical. The information must be submitted by Feb. 7, 2018.

The EPA estimated 1,600 chemical manufacturers and importers and another 100 chemical processors, which make paints, waxes, cleaning and other chemical-intensive products, would need to notify the agency at an estimated cost of $9.7 million to $11.8 million over the next 10 years. Thousands more chemical makers and processors would want to familiarize themselves with the rule, the agency said.

As the deadline approaches, chemical makers were confident they could provide the EPA with the required information. Robert Helminiak, managing director of government relations for the Society of Chemical Manufacturers and Affiliates (SOCMA), which represents specialty chemical manufacturers, said the amount of work facing such companies is manageable.

“Fortunately, SOCMA members have been made well aware of the rule, and we will update them again when the rule is published,” he told Bloomberg BNA. “We believe they will be prepared. A 180-day window is a small window to cover 10 years of chemical development and manufacture, but we’re optimistic the industry can meet the requirements. We believe EPA has removed some difficult-to-comply-with requirements,” Helminiak said.

Chemical makers and importers are required to provide the EPA with the requested information as part of the amendments to the Toxic Substances Control Act signed into law in 2016.

Chemical processors can choose to notify the agency about chemicals they use, but they aren’t required to. They have until Oct. 5, 2018, to notify the agency if a chemical they use wasn’t put on the active chemicals inventory.

Chemicals Listed as Active or Dormant

The rule establishes the process by which the EPA and companies will establish two lists—an active inventory of chemicals that have been in commerce since June 21, 2006, and an inventory of chemicals that used to be in commerce but currently are dormant.

Only chemicals on the active inventory can continue to be made in, imported into, or used in the U.S. once the agency establishes the list. So companies that use chemicals to make cars, airplanes, semiconductors, cleaners, and myriad other products might want to make sure the chemicals they need remain on the active list.

Chemicals on the inactive inventory could be made and used once again, but only after notifying the agency ahead of time.

Small Volume Chemicals

The EPA’s final rule seeks to reduce the notification burden companies would face. For example, companies that make a chemical that meets certain criteria—for example, a manufacturer already reported the chemical’s production to the EPA to comply with its 2012 or 2016 Chemical Data Reporting rule—do not have to notify the agency a second time. The EPA presumes those chemicals have been in commerce during the 10 years preceding TSCA’s overhaul.

The EPA listed the 9,627 chemicals it presumes are in commerce on an interim list of active substances.

Those chemicals, generally, are ones that were produced in volumes of 25,000 pounds or more, meaning many chemicals essential to diverse industries already are on the presumed-to-be-active list and companies would not need to notify the EPA a second time to keep them on the active list.

Companies making smaller volumes of chemical, such as specialty chemical and some fragrance manufacturers, may not have produced their substances at the 25,000 pound threshold, meaning they must notify the agency if they want to continue making those products.

Industry Wants Accurate Inventory

“The industry’s main concern is having an accurate list of active chemicals. SOCMA is confident EPA will once again work with industry to make sure the EPA work product is properly completed and correct,” Helminiak said.

None of the companies Bloomberg BNA contacted voiced concerns about the effects the rule would have on them.

“Albemarle will meet all deadlines and comply with all requirements,” Susan Richardson, senior communications director for the Albemarle Corp., told Bloomberg BNA by email.

3M and Procter & Gamble Co. did not immediately reply to Bloomberg BNA request for comment, while Lanxess and BASF SE declined to comment on the rule.

To contact the reporter on this story: Pat Rizzuto in Washington at prizzuto@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Rachael Daigle at rdaigle@bna.com

For More Information

EPA's final rule is available at http://src.bna.com/rzD.

EPA's interim list of active substances is available at https://www.epa.gov/tsca-inventory/interim-list-active-substances.

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