EPA Announces Chemical Reporting Updates

FRIDAY, MAY 7, 2021

Late last week the Environmental Protection Agency released multiple announcements regarding toxic substances and chemicals.

The agency first released a list of 390 chemicals that are expected to lose their confidential status and move to the public portion of the Toxic Substances Control Act inventory.

It also announced a plan to update its Toxics Release Inventory, which includes expanding reporting requirements for certain chemicals and facilities, including PFAS.

TSCA Update

The movement of 390 chemicals from confident to public is reportedly a move that aims to further the agency’s commitment to data transparency.

According to the EPA, the identities of these chemicals were reported as non-confidential during Chemical Data Reporting cycles from the 2012, 2016 and/or 2020 reporting periods. In accordance with the CDR rule and with TSCA sections 8 and 14, the EPA intends to update the TSCA Inventory listings for these chemicals to list the specific chemical identities on the public portion of the Inventory.  

The EPA has published a list of the chemicals currently identifying them by their accession numbers.

The EPA notes that stakeholders with interest, questions or concerns about this change in confidential status may contact the EPA no later than May 14. The specific chemical identities of these 390 chemicals are expected to be included in the next routine publication of the public TSCA Inventory, anticipated in late summer.

TRI Update

The TRI moves also aim to improve transparency, as well as access to environmental information.

The plan includes expanding the scope of TRI reporting requirements to include additional chemicals and facilities, including facilities that are not currently reporting on ethylene oxide (EtO, found commonly in sterilizers) releases, and providing new tools to make TRI data more accessible to the public.

“Every person in the United States has a right to know about what chemicals are released into their communities,” said EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan. “By requiring new and more data on chemical releases from facilities, EPA and its partners will be better equipped to protect the health of every individual, including people of color and low-income communities that are often located near these facilities but have been left out of the conversation for too long.”

The TRI update not only includes expanding reporting to EtO facilities but also:

  • TRI Reporting for Natural Gas Processing Facilities -  EPA plans to finalize a rule to add natural gas  processing facilities to the list of industry sectors covered under the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) section 313.
  • TRI Reporting for Additional Per-and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) - EPA will continue to add new PFAS to TRI, in addition to the three PFAS added in Reporting Year 2021. The provisions included in the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) automatically add certain PFAS to the TRI chemical list when certain conditions are met (see NDAA Section 7321(c)). EPA also anticipates the automatic addition of more PFAS, including perfluorobutane sulfonic acid (PFBS), following EPA’s recent publication of a toxicity assessment on the chemical.
  • TRI Reporting for TSCA Workplan and High-Priority Chemicals - EPA plans to propose adding to TRI the chemicals included in the TSCA workplan and other substances designated as high-priority substances under TSCA. In addition, EPA plans to propose to list chemicals included in a 2014 petition received from the Toxics Use Reduction Institute. Many of these substances could be present in fence line communities, those communities within close proximity to industrial uses of these chemicals where releases to water, air, or land could be of a greater impact.

The EPA is also planning to enhance the TRI tools themselves by including a demographic profile search option, launching a Spanish version of the TRI website and promoting the use of pollution prevention information.

Recent TSCA News

At the end of March, the EPA gave an update on its evaluation surrounding the policies, guidances, templates and regulations under the Toxic Substances Control Act.

The Agency said that it had identified several instances “where the approach for making determinations and managing risks associated with new chemicals can more closely align with the requirements of TSCA to ensure protections for human health and the environment, including the use of significant new use rules (SNURs) and assumptions related to worker exposures.”

The announcement stated that the EPA would stop issuing determinations of “not likely to present an unreasonable risk” based on the existence of proposed SNURs.

“Rather than excluding reasonably foreseen conditions of use from EPA’s review of a new substance by means of a SNUR, Congress anticipated that EPA would review all conditions of use when making determinations on new chemicals and, where appropriate, issue orders to address potential risks. Going forward, when EPA’s review leads to a conclusion that one or more uses may present an unreasonable risk, or when EPA lacks the information needed to make a safety finding, the agency will issue an order to address those potential risks,” the Agency noted.

EPA intends to continue issuing SNURs following TSCA section 5(e) and 5(f) orders for new chemicals to ensure the requirements imposed on the submitter via an order apply to any person who manufacturers or processes the chemical in the future.

In addition, though, EPA also intends to ensure necessary protections for workers identified in its review of new chemicals through regulatory means. When the EPA identifies a potential unreasonable risk to workers that could be addressed with appropriate personal protective equipment and hazard communication, it will no longer assume that workers are adequately protected under OSHA’s worker protection standards and updated Safety Data Sheets.

Instead, EPA will identify the absence of worker safeguards as “reasonably foreseen” conditions of use, and mandate necessary protections through a TSCA section 5(e) order, as appropriate.

This update followed a February announcement that the agency will be refining its approach to selections, reviews and evaluations of chemicals within the TSCA.

Recent PFAS Update

The PFAS update in terms of the TRI follows Regan’s announcement calling for the creation of a new EPA Council on PFAS. The council’s mission is to build the agency’s work to better understand and reduce the risks caused by per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances.

Regan had asked Radhika Fox, Principal Deputy Assistant Administrator in the Office of Water, and Deb Szaro, Acting Regional Administrator in Region 1, to convene and lead the EPA Council on PFAS, which will be comprised of senior EPA career officials from across the agency.

The goals of the council date back to a 2019 action plan that was never realized. Directives include:

  • Develop "PFAS 2021-2025 - Safeguarding America's Waters, Air and Land," a multi-year strategy to deliver critical public health protections to the American public. To develop the strategy, the ECP will review all ongoing actions, propose any necessary modifications, and identify new strategies and priorities. The ECP shall make initial recommendations within 100 days of its establishment.
  • Continue close interagency coordination on regional specific and cross-media issues to assist states, Tribes, and local communities faced with significant and complex PFAS challenges.
  • Work with all national program offices and regions to maximize the impact of EPA's funding and financing programs and leverage federal and state funds to support cleanup of PFAS pollution, particularly in underserved communities.
  • Expand engagement opportunities with federal, state, and tribal partners to ensure consistent communications, exchange information, and identify collaborative solutions.

Tagged categories: Construction chemicals; EPA; EPA; Good Technical Practice; Government; Health and safety; NA; North America; Safety

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