Safer Consumer Products Schedules Public Hearing on its Proposal to List Paint or Varnish Strippers Containing Methylene Chloride as a Priority Product

A public hearing on California’s Safer Consumer Product’s third proposed Priority Product regulation will be held on January 8, 2018. The hearing will begin at 1:00 PM in the Sierra Hearing Room at the CalEPA Building, located at 1001 “I” Street, Sacramento, California, and remain open until 5:00 PM or until no attendees present testimony, whichever occurs first. Prior to attending the meeting, all visitors are required to sign in at the Visitor and Environmental Services Center, located inside the main entrance of the building.

The comment period for the proposed regulation closes on January 18, 2018. Any interested person(s) may submit written comments relevant to the proposed regulatory action to DTSC in either electronic or hard-copy formats. Written comments may be submitted electronically through CalSAFER, the Safer Consumer Products information management system.

Hard-copy written comments may be delivered to:

Proposed Regulations
Office of Legal Affairs
Department of Toxic Substances Control
1001 “I” Street
Sacramento, California 95812-0806

EPA Offers Free Training On the Hazardous Waste Generator Improvements Rule

EPA’s Office of Resource Conservation and Recovery (ORCR) will hold a free full-day workshop on the 2016 Hazardous Waste Generator Improvements Final Rule. The workshop will be held on Wednesday, February 7, 2018, in Arlington, VA, from 8:30 to 3:00 PM. The workshop will cover all the major provisions of the rule, looking at regulatory text and common implementation questions that have come up since the rule was issued in final. During the workshop EPA will answer following questions:

  • Which components of the hazardous waste generator regulatory program were revised?
  • Which gaps in the regulations were addressed in this rule?
  • What flexible options are provided by this rule for hazardous waste generators to manage their hazardous waste in a cost-effective and protective manner?
  • How were the hazardous waste generator regulations reorganized to make them more user-friendly and thus improve their usability by the regulated community?

The workshop will be held at EPA’s Conference Center in the Potomac Yard building in Arlington, VA. Click here to register online.

EPA Semiannual Regulatory Agenda Postpones Regulation of Methylene Chloride, NMP, and TCE

The EPA Fall 2017 Regulatory Agenda defers Agency action on three chemicals for which the proposed rules had indicated bans would be forthcoming:

  • Methylene chloride in paint strippers,
  • N-methylpyrrolidone (NMP) in paint strippers, and
  • Trichloroethylene (TCE) as a spot cleaner in dry-cleaning and as a degreasing agent.

The rulemakings are listed as “long-term actions” and will be issued “to be determined” in the Semiannual Regulatory Agenda.   EPA has not explained the reason for the deferrals.   Proposed regulations for methylene chloride and NMP were issued in January 2017.  Further information on EPA’s past actions regarding methylene chloride can be found here. Further information on EPA’s past actions regarding NMP can be found here.  Proposed regulations for TCE were issued in December 2016 and January 2017.  Further information on EPA’s past actions regarding the substance can be found here.

The rulemakings were developed under section 6(a) of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).  They address uses of the chemicals identified to be of concern in risk assessments published prior to the Lautenberg amendments to the statute.  In addition to the proposed rules on these uses of concern, all three chemicals are also are among the first substances selected for risk evaluation under the Lautenberg amendments.  EPA is required to complete each of those risk evaluation within 3 years of its initiation.  (The amendments also allow the Agency two years after each risk evaluation is published to issue final rules restricting the uses of chemicals that present an unreasonable risk of injury to health or the environment.)  A larger set of uses than those identified above will be considered in the forthcoming risk evaluations.  However, EPA has been sued over the final rule for the risk evaluation process.  One issue challenged in that litigation is the scope of uses that will be addressed by the process.  That litigation is ongoing.

OEHHA Amends Proposition 65 Clear and Reasonable Warning Regulations

The Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) received numerous inquiries related to the interpretation and application of several provisions of the August 2016 amendments to the Article 6 Clear and Reasonable Warnings regulations. OEHHA determined that clarification of certain provisions of the new regulations “would be beneficial to the regulated community.” As such, on December 6, 2017, OEHHA issued a notice alerting stakeholders that amendments were approved. The proposed amendments are intended to further clarify the guidance OEHHA provides to businesses to better understand how to comply with the warning requirements.

There are some changes worth mentioning. First, OEHHA eliminated the term “on-product” warning and replaced the term as “short form” warning. It must be noted that there are no substantive changes to the content of the short form warning. Second, OEHHA revised the definition of “label” to indicate that a label can be “printed on or” affixed to a product or its immediate container or wrapper. This change is intended to clarify that there is no requirement to place a separate label with the warning on the product if the warning is printed on the product or the immediate container or wrapper. Third, OEHHA also has revised the definition of “labeling” to delete the reference to “tags at the point of sale or display of a product” because tags are a form of signage, not labeling.

For more information, visit OEHHA’s website here.

EPA Announces Cross-Agency Effort to Address PFAS

On December 4, 2017, the EPA announced a “a cross-agency effort to address per and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).”  The press release notes that the PFAS effort will include perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS), as well as GenX, a substance developed as a replacement for the older chemicals.

The Agency pledged to:

  • Identify a set of near-term actions to help support local communities;
  • Enhance coordination with states, tribes and federal partners to provide communities with critical information and tools to address PFAS;
  • Increase ongoing research efforts to identify new methods for measuring PFAS and filling data gaps; and
  • Expand proactive communications efforts regarding PFAS and their health effects.

However, the Agency did not promise to take regulatory action.

The EPA issued Significant New Use Rules (SNURs) for PFOS-related substances in 2002.   It also issued a SNUR for the use of perfluorinated chemicals in carpets and carpet aftercare products in 2013.  In addition, the Agency partnered with manufacturers in the US and globally to reduce or eliminate use of PFASs.  U.S. companies voluntarily phased out producing the chemicals between 2000 and 2002.  Foreign companies achieved a 95 percent reduction in PFOA and PFOA-related chemicals in the emissions from their facilities and in their products.

The EPA has also published drinking water health advisories for PFOA and PFOS.

More information about the Agency’s efforts regarding these substances can be found here.

Irene Hantman and Kurt Blase to Present on New Requirements for Chemicals in Commerce

Tuesday, December 12, 2017 at 2PM ET, Irene Hantman and Kurt Blase will conduct a webinar for the American Chemical Society on New Requirements for Chemicals in Commerce – Chemical Regulation under TSCA Reform.  Register for the webinar here.

The Lautenberg amendments to TSCA impose new reporting requirements on chemicals in commerce through Inventory Reset Reporting.  Inventory Reporting is necessary to keep chemicals in commerce lawfully.  These requirements also have implications for raw materials.  The presentation will address these issues.  It will also address how the amendments require EPA to ensure that new chemicals do not present an unreasonable risk to human health and the environment.  This has significant implications for new chemicals notification – the Premanufacture Notification requirement.  In addition, the webinar will discuss the reporting requirements of the Nanoscale Materials Reporting Rule.  (This rule was not required by the Lautenberg amendments.)


“Back to Basics”: NAAQS Attainment Plans and Designations

(This post is an adaptation of an article published in the November 2017 newsletter of the Air Quality Committee, a committee of the American Bar Association’s Section of Environment, Energy, and Resources. A PDF of the article is available here.)

By Kurt Blase

EPA Administrator Pruitt has announced a new “Back-to-Basics Agenda” to “refocus” EPA on its mission and return power to the states. This is likely to affect EPA’s review of state plans for attainment of the ozone standard and other national ambient air quality standards (NAAQS).

 Background Concentrations

Many states, particularly in the West, have predicted nonattainment of the 2015 ozone standard as a result of ozone background concentrations not susceptible to localized controls. They argue that in such cases, employment of additional local control measures would provide negligible public health benefits, but would impose substantial costs. They also point to evidence that the resulting economic dislocation causes significant public health problems.

This is one area where EPA arguably has broad discretion to defer to the states.  Clean Air Act (CAA) Section 107 provides that “Each state shall have the primary responsibility for ensuring air quality within the entire geographic area comprising such State . . .”  EPA may construe Section 107 to give states wide latitude to address background issues. And the federal courts may defer.  For example, the Supreme Court has noted that “the most important forum for consideration of claims of economic and technological infeasibility is before the state agency formulating the implementation plan.” Whitman v. American Trucking Ass’ns, Inc., 531 U.S. 457, 470 (2001)(quoting Union Electric Co. v. EPA, 427 U.S. at 266).

Foreign Emissions

CAA Section 179B allows EPA to approve state plans that do not require actual attainment in areas that would be in attainment “but for” emissions emanating from outside the US.  In the ozone implementation rule proposed by the Obama Administration, EPA requested comment on whether this relief is limited to emissions from Canada and Mexico.  However, the statute imposes no such requirement and, as EPA noted, contributions to U.S. ozone concentrations can be made by international sources not located in bordering countries.

EPA’s proposal also sought comment on a requirement that all “reasonably available control measures” (RACM) must be employed to qualify for relief from foreign emissions. Again, however, the statute does not require that, and it provides EPA with flexibility to approve state plans that do not require actual attainment or impose ineffective controls in cases involving international emissions.

Intrastate Controls

The ozone implementation proposal would require intrastate sources outside of a nonattainment area to employ RACM. Once again, however, nothing in the nonattainment provisions of the Act requires that. If a state determines that a source outside the recommended boundary may contribute, it can require any necessary controls pursuant to other provisions of the Act.

While these issues are a focus of the current ozone debate, they are not limited to the ozone NAAQS and apply to the other standards as well. With respect to NAAQS attainment plans and designations, “back to basics” is real: the statute gives EPA ample flexibility to defer to state choices provided a rational basis consistent with statutory requirements is employed.

EPA Determines to Update to Standards for “Small Manufacturers and Processors” for TSCA Reporting

On November 30, 2017, EPA published a final determination, as required under the amended TSCA, that an update is warranted to the size standards for small manufacturers and processors currently used to determine which small businesses are exempt from reporting regulations under TSCA Section 8(a).  EPA’s determination was made after reviewing public comments and consulting with the Small Business Administration (SBA).  The determination today does not include changing the standards themselves. The future revisions to the standards will occur by subsequent rulemaking, which allows for further opportunities for consultation with the SBA and public notice and comment.

California Proposes Restrictions on the Use of Paint and Varnish Strippers Containing Methylene Chloride

The California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) is seeking public comment on its proposal to list Paint and Varnish Strippers Containing Methylene Chloride as a Priority Product.  The comment period opened on November 17, 2017.  It will close January 18, 2018.   The proposed regulation is available on the agency’s website.  If the regulation is adopted, manufacturers will be required to conduct an Alternatives Analysis to identify and evaluate safer options.

DTSC proposes to list Paint or Varnish Strippers Containing Methylene Chloride as a Priority Product in regulation because workers and consumers could be exposed to methylene chloride during normal use of paint or varnish strippers.  Inhalation and dermal exposure to methylene chloride is associated with adverse health effects, including cancer of the brain, liver, and biliary tract, and central nervous system depression, intoxication and unconsciousness. Numerous deaths have been reported in workers and consumers who were exposed to methylene chloride during use of paint or varnish strippers.

Once a Priority Product has been adopted in regulation, responsible entities who manufacture the product must notify DTSC. Following the initial notification, a responsible entity may choose to remove the chemical of concern (COC) from the Priority Product; stop selling or distributing the Priority Product in California; or perform an Alternatives Analysis (AA) to determine how best to limit adverse public health and environmental impacts posed by the COC in the product. The Preliminary Alternatives Analysis Report for this Priority Product shall be submitted within 180 days after the effective date of this regulation.

If a responsible entity chooses to follow the AA process (rather than removing the COC from the product or the product from commerce in California), then DTSC may impose regulatory responses, based on alternative selected by that responsible entity, which are designed to prevent or significantly reduce the potential for adverse impacts to public health and the environment.  DTSC reports that it intends to maximize the use of alternatives of least concern and give preference to those that provide the greatest level of inherent protection.  Information about the requirements for AAs can be found on DTSC’s website.

EPA Enforces RICE Rule at Sand and Gravel Operation

A Massachusetts sand and gravel company, Kimball Sand, has agreed in a settlement with EPA to conduct opacity testing at one of its operations and to replace three stationary engines with newer, cleaner engines. The company also paid a penalty of $120,000 for violations of the applicable new source performance standard (opacity) and the air toxics rules for stationary reciprocating internal combustion engines (RICE).

Kimball Sand operates rock crushing equipment including stone crushers, screeners, conveyer belts, as well as its engines at their facility. The equipment is subject to federal Clean Air Act (CAA)’s New Source Performance Standards for Nonmetallic Mineral Processing Plants, and the engines are subject to the CAA National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants for Stationary Reciprocating Internal Combustion Engines.

Industry sources believe this may be the first RICE enforcement settlement at a sand and gravel operation.