EPA Proposes Strategy to Identify, Review Commercial Chemicals

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By Pat Rizzuto

The Environmental Protection Agency released three proposed rules that would establish its first-ever, comprehensive regulatory strategy to evaluate—and regulate, if needed—chemicals in commerce.

The Toxic Substances Control Act amendments of 2016 required the EPA to develop all three rules to build a foundation that would allow the agency to meet the law’s other requirements to manage chemicals in commerce. The rules must be issued as final by June 22, 2017, according to the statute.

“After 40 years, we can finally address chemicals currently in the marketplace,” said Jim Jones, the EPA assistant administrator for chemical safety and pollution prevention in a statement announcing the release of all three rules (see related stories on selection of chemicals for risk review and the chemical evaluation process.

“Today’s action will set into motion a process to quickly evaluate chemicals and meet deadlines required under, and essential to, implementing the new law,” Jones said.

The three proposed rules, published Jan. 12 and 13, would allow the EPA to:

  •  identify chemicals made in, imported into or processed within the U.S. during the last 10 years;
  •  decide which of those have potential risks that need to be evaluated and which have sufficient data to conclude they do not warrant evaluation; and
  •  assess those risks and pursue regulatory controls if needed.

Foundation for Amended Law

Congress amended TSCA to solve a problem the agency discusses in its regulatory package. When the original TSCA became law in 1976 tens of thousands of chemicals were grandfathered in, presumed safe, with no requirement for the EPA to evaluate their risk to human health or the environment.

“The absence of a review requirement or deadlines for action, coupled with a burdensome statutory standard for taking risk management on existing chemical substances, resulted in very few chemical substances every being assessed for safety by EPA, and even fewer subject to restrictions to address identified risks,” the agency said in its proposed rule to determine which chemicals are a priority for risk evaluation.

“One of the key features of the new law is the requirement that EPA now systematically prioritize and assess existing chemical substances and manage identified risks,” EPA’s prioritization rule continued.

EPA Effort Praised

The American Chemistry Council praised the EPA for keeping on schedule and proposing the core regulatory requirements mandated by the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act, which amended TSCA.

“Importantly, the release keeps EPA on schedule for finalization of these rules by its June 2017 statutory mandate,” the council said in a Jan. 13 statement.

Lynn Bergeson, managing partner of Bergeson & Campbell PC in Washington, D.C., told Bloomberg BNA, “EPA has done the near impossible in proposing three epic rules. Now the burden is on other stakeholders to define, clarify, and help the process along.”

Richard Denison, lead senior scientist at the Environmental Defense Fund, which worked to overhaul TSCA, praised the staff and management of the EPA for the amount of work carried out since the TSCA amendments became law less than seven months ago.

In that time, the agency has proposed not only the three foundational rules, but also three chemical-specific risk management rules, he told Bloomberg BNA and later blogged.

The chemical-specific rules address the paint and coating removal uses of two solvents, methylene chloride and n-methylpyrrolidone; the dry cleaning and aerosol degreasing uses of another solvent called trichloroethylene; and the vapor degreasing uses of trichloroethylene.

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

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Larry Pearl at lpearl@bna.com

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