Panel to Build on Ideas to Ease Chemical Data Requirements

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By Pat Rizzuto

A panel that included manufacturers agreed Aug. 17 to flesh out four ideas to simplify EPA requirements companies face when providing information about chemicals in waste streams they recycle.

Before its next meeting Sept. 13-14, the Environmental Protection Agency advisory committee—which includes makers of glass, metal, electronic parts and other products—will discuss strategies to:

  •  clarify existing exemptions in a chemical rule that allow some manufacturers to not have to give the EPA details about certain chemicals in their waste;
  •  give manufacturers the option of reporting some chemicals as groups rather than individual substances;
  •  simplify the requirements of a specific section of a form manufacturers must submit to the EPA; and
  •  clarify two industry proposals addressing certain wastes, such as metal catalysts, that get refreshed and reused many times by the same manufacturer that originally purchased them.
By October, the committee must decide whether it can recommend regulatory changes to ease manufacturers’ burdens. Those recommendations would be the foundation of regulatory changes the EPA would propose to make to its Chemical Data Reporting (CDR) rule.

If the committee doesn’t reach consensus, its members can put forward ideas most of the members support and the objections of others. The EPA would then decide how to proceed.

The congressionally mandated committee consists of officials representing the EPA, manufacturers, recyclers, states, tribes and environmental health groups. Congress ordered the EPA to establish the committee when lawmakers amended the Toxic Substances Control Act in 2016.Industry and recycling representatives outnumber state, tribal and environmental health groups on the committee, so the majority report in the committee’s final recommendations would be likely to reflect industry’s ideas.

Despite strong disagreements at times, all of the committee members said Aug. 17 they remain committed to trying to work towards a consensus set of recommendations. The diverse groups on the committee seemed unlikely, however, to ever agree on reducing the amount of information such manufacturers provide the EPA.

Focus: Inorganic Byproducts

Committee members are discussing whether there are ways to make it easier for glass, metal, petroleum and other manufacturers to provide the EPA information about chemicals in “inorganic byproducts”—mostly metal-containing ash, dust, sludge and liquid—that get recycled or reused. The EPA and state, tribal and other non-industry groups want to be sure, however, that the agency gets enough information to understand whether some of these reused wastes end up harming people or the environment.

Lynn Vendinello, deputy director of EPA Chemical Control Division, told the committee the agency can’t estimate exactly the volume of inorganic byproducts reported by manufacturers, because the reporting form doesn’t distinguish them from other chemicals. However, the agency estimates that about 382 billion pounds of 463 inorganic chemicals are reported annually on average.

Fern Abrams, regulatory affairs director for the IPC-Association Connecting Electronics Industries and committee member, described the core problem during the Aug. 16-17 meeting. Manufacturers have found many different niche uses and markets for what used to be wastes, she said.

Yet the diversity of the byproducts and their uses make it so complicated to comply with the Chemical Data Reporting rule that the regulation becomes a disincentive to recycling, Abrams told Bloomberg BNA.

Manufacturers don’t want to dispose of their byproducts, but sometimes that seems like the easier option, she said.

States Concerned

The CDR rule requires that chemical manufacturers report production volume, worker exposure and other information to the EPA every four years. Many different offices within the agency use that information to answer lots of different questions, according to information the agency prepared for the meeting.

Byproduct production counts as a form of chemical manufacture when it has commercial value. For example, platinum and other metals can be reused again and again as catalysts to make other chemicals.

Cement kiln dust can be used in roadway construction, according to the Department of Transportation.

Some uses of waste materials, especially ones with metals, are worrisome and potentially harmful, said John Gilkeson, a Minnesota Pollution Control Agency official representing the Environmental Council of the States (ECOS), David Lennett, senior attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council, and other non-industry committee members.

Metal-containing wastes burned as fuel, for example, can spew toxic compounds into the air people and animals breath, the water they drink and the soil on which food grows, Amy Kyle, with the Sierra Club and Communities Against Toxics, told Bloomberg BNA. The Sierra Club has received funding from Bloomberg Philanthropies, the charitable organization founded by Michael Bloomberg, the majority owner of Bloomberg L.P., an affiliate of Bloomberg BNA.Ironite® was once a fertilizer ingredient, but made with mine tailings, Lennett said. The result: Arsenic, lead and other metals leached into the soil, he said. States individually rushed to prevent continued contamination, Lennett said.

“The scenario where people put metals onto land isn’t a fantasy. It’s happened,” he said. “That’s one reason states are concerned.”

Work groups established at the meeting’s end will refine ideas and present strategies to the committee at its next meeting on Sept. 13-14. The panel’s last meeting is scheduled for Oct. 25-26, according to a Federal Register notice to be published Aug. 18.

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

The EPA's description of the Chemical Data Reporting rule's need for inorganic byproducts data is available at http://src.bna.com/rLZ.

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