EPA Extends Comment Period on PFAS Rule
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued two new updates in emailed press releases regarding per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, both extending the public comment period for its proposed recordkeeping requirements and releasing data from the 2020 Toxics Release Inventory.
First, the comment period on the proposed reporting and recordkeeping requirements for manufacturers (including importers) of PFAS under section 8(a)(7) of the Toxic Substances Control Act, was extended from an Aug. 27 closing date to Sept. 27.
Second, the EPA released data from the TRI about chemical releases, chemical waste management and pollution prevention activities that took place during 2020 at nearly 21,000 federal and industrial facilities across the country. The preliminary data reportedly includes the first-ever reporting on PFAS added to the TRI by the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act.
The EPA noted that the dataset released is raw data and does not contain any summary or trend analysis and the EPA is now conducting additional quality checks on the preliminary data. The 2020 preliminary data will be updated periodically to reflect revisions to previously submitted data and late submissions of TRI reporting forms.
At this time, the data related to the PFAS added by the NDAA and received by the agency include a total of 89 TRI reporting forms for 44 discrete PFAS chemicals filed by 38 individual facilities.
The preliminary data indicate facilities managed over 700,000 pounds of production-related waste of PFAS during 2020.
The EPA has been releasing clusters of PFA news in the past months. In June, it announced three actions, include issuing the proposed rule that it says is designed to gather comprehensive data on more than 1,000 PFAS manufactured in the United States, withdrawing guidance that weakened EPA’s July 2020 Significant New Use Rule restricting certain long-chain PFAS, and publishing a final rule that incorporates three additional PFAS into the Toxics Release Inventory.
The rule is a statutory requirement under the FY2020 National Defense Authorization Act that would require all manufacturers (including importers) of PFAS in any year since 2011 to report information related to chemical identity, categories of use, volumes manufactured and processed, byproducts, environmental and health effects, worker exposure and disposal.
The EPA says that this will help the agency understand the sources and quantities of PFAS in the U.S. and support the agency’s PFAS research, monitoring and regulatory efforts. Once finalized, this rule would reportedly be the first targeted effort under the Toxic Substances Control Act to collect information on the manufacture of PFAS.
To assist stakeholders in determining whether or not they have a reportable chemical, the EPA will provide examples, exemption notices and structural diagrams. The proposed deadline for reporting PFAS data to EPA is one year following the effective date of the final rule.
In addition to the new reporting action, the EPA withdrew a compliance guide that it says weakened the July 2020 Significant New Use Rule—this is in accordance with the Biden-Harris administration. The SNUR prohibits companies from importing certain long-chain PFAS as part of a “surface coating” on articles without prior EPA review and approval.
The EPA noted that the guide was issued in January, in the last days of the Trump administration and aimed to limit what would be considered “surface coating.” The guide also was never opened to public comments, the EPA added, saying that it determined that the guide “inappropriately narrowed the scope and weakened the prohibitions included in the SNUR.”
That guide has been removed and is no longer in effect.
Lastly, the EPA had taken the next step to implement a PFAS requirement of the NDAA. The NDAA provided a framework for additional PFAS to be added to TRI on an annual basis. For TRI Reporting Year 2021 (reporting forms due by July 1, 2022), the NDAA has added three PFAS to the TRI list because they are now subject to a SNUR under TSCA.
Per the NDAA requirements, the PFAS additions became effective as of Jan. 1. Reporting forms for these PFAS will be due to EPA by July 1, 2022, for calendar year 2021 data.
At the beginning of the month, President Joe Biden submitted his budget request of $11.2 billion for the EPA, with emphasis on issues such as the environment, science and support of state and local programs.
The budget breakdown included a provision for PFAS, namely that $75 million will go to accelerate toxicity studies and fund research to inform the regulatory developments of designating PFAS as hazardous substances while setting enforceable limits for PFAS.
In addition to the increase in funding proposed in the budget, Regan recently issued a memorandum to senior leadership 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 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: