Innovation Harmed by EPA’s New Chemicals Practices: 3M, Dow

Turn to the nation's most objective and informative daily environmental news resource to learn how the United States and key players around the world are responding to the environmental...

By Pat Rizzuto

The EPA is considering too many potential uses of new chemicals before reaching a decision about whether to allow them onto the market, the Dow Chemical Co. recently told the agency.

Indications that the Environmental Protection Agency intends to impose upfront testing on many new chemicals is further delaying the entry into the market of these compounds, 3M told the agency.

“EPA is not considering the potential advantages in environmental impact, toxicity, safety and performance of new products over existing materials in commerce,” said the Shepherd Color Co.

3M, Dow and Shepherd were among the companies and trade associations that submitted comments, due Jan. 14, on changes the EPA has made to its new chemicals program following the Toxic Substances Control Act amendments of 2016. Bloomberg BNA was unable to reach regulatory managers at 3M, Dow or Shepard Jan. 31 to elaborate on their comments.

Sens. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Tom Udall (D-N.M.) backed the EPA’s interpretation of the law in comments they submitted. The agency is implementing the changes Congress mandated in a manner consistent with congressional intent, they wrote.

EPA nominee Scott Pruitt repeatedly has said he would support implementation of the amended chemicals law if his nomination to lead the agency is confirmed by the Senate. Pruitt, however, gave no hints as to how he would interpret the new law when he testified Jan. 18 before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

Disputed Scope of Uses

The amendments that overhauled TSCA last June (Pub. Law No 114-182) revised how the agency reviewed new chemicals that have never been made in or imported into the U.S. The agency typically reviews between 500 and 1,000 new chemicals each year.

The law required the EPA—for the first time—to make a decision about whether the new chemical would pose an unreasonable risk. The agency must make that decision before a new chemical can enter commerce. The agency also must affirmatively allow an existing chemical to be used or manufactured in a new way if that new process or use is regulated under a significant new use regulation.

The agency’s review must consider the intended, known or reasonably foreseen conditions of use by which the new chemical would be manufactured, processed, distributed in commerce, used or disposed.

Dow said the EPA’s interpretation of what constitutes reasonably foreseeable uses is too broad.

The agency is considering potential uses that the chemical manufacturer never intended and may, therefore, require the manufacturer to generate data to support uses it never envisioned, Dow said. Comments submitted by many trade associations, including the American Chemistry Council, echoed the company’s view.

Markey, Merkley and Udall said: “Congress clearly intended for EPA to assess all conditions of use for new chemicals.” Doing otherwise would be antithetical to Congress’ goal of ensuring that new chemicals are unlikely to pose an unreasonable risk, they said.

Legislators considered—and rejected—language that would have limited the EPA’s use consideration to the commercialization goals of the chemical manufacturer, the senators said. Washington state’s Department of Ecology, environmental groups and health organizations voiced similar perspectives in their comments.One solution, said the American Cleaning Institute, would be to require the company that proposed to make the new chemical to bind itself to certain manufacturing processes and uses.

The agency could then limit other companies to those same manufacturing and use conditions through significant new use rules, the institute said.

Dow also encouraged the EPA to use new use rules, or other authorities, to limit new manufacturing processes or uses of a chemical that may pose health or ecological risks. 3M, Dow and trade associations said they supported the TSCA overhaul, but want the agency to return to its previous practices of timely completion of new chemical reviews.

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

Copyright © 2017 The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Try Environment & Energy Report