TSCA Feed

Earth Day 2015: Beach Clean Up!

Grayson_Lynn_COLORBy E. Lynn Grayson Jenner & Block Earth Day 2015

 

On Friday, April 17th, Jenner & Block partnered with ComEd and Exelon to clean up the 12th Street beach at Northerly Island, in cooperation with the Alliance for the Great Lakes. Our group picked up over 85 pounds of broken glass, plastic beverage containers, food wrappers, cigarettes, and other miscellaneous trash and debris.

The Adopt-a-Beach program is the premier volunteer initiative for the Alliance for the Great Lakes. Teams remove litter and enter results into the Adopt-a-Beach online system to share with local beach authorities, educate the public, and improve the beaches and the health of the Great Lakes.

This picture shows our team after clean up efforts at 12th Street beach: 

Beach Day Cleanup

 

What will you do to celebrate Earth Day 2015? How about participating in the Adopt-a-Beach program?

To learn more about beach clean up opportunities or to schedule an event, visit http://www.greatlakes.org/.

A special thanks to our own Gay Sigel for organizing the Jenner & Block team. Thanks, Gay!


EPA Proposes New Nanoscale Chemical Reporting Rule

Grayson_Lynn_COLORBy E. Lynn Grayson

 

EPA has proposed one-time reporting and record keeping requirements on nanoscale chemical substances in the marketplace. The proposed rule contains a 90-day public comment period. After the comment period, EPA will review and consider those comments before issuing any final rule. EPA also anticipates a public meeting during the comment period to obtain additional public input.

Specifically, EPA proposed requiring companies that manufacture or process (or intend to manufacture or process) chemical substances in the nanoscale range to electronically report information, including the specific chemical identity, production volume, methods of manufacture, processing, use, exposure and release information, and available health and safety data. The proposed rule would apply to chemical substances that have unique properties related to their size. The proposed rule contains exclusions for chemical substances in the nanoscale range that would not be subject to the rule. In addition to this proposed one-time reporting on chemical substances manufactured or processed as nanoscale materials already in commerce, EPA currently reviews new chemical substances manufactured or processed as nanomaterials prior to introduction into the marketplace to ensure that they are safe.

Chemical substances that have structures with dimensions at the nanoscale -- approximately 1-100 nanometers (nm) -- are commonly referred to as nanoscale materials or nanoscale substances. A human hair is approximately 80,000-100,000 nanometers wide. These chemical substances may have properties different than the same chemical substances with structures at a larger scale, such as greater strength, lighter weight, and greater chemical reactivity. These enhanced or different properties give nanoscale materials a range of potentially beneficial public and commercial applications; however, the same special properties may cause some of these chemical substances to behave differently than conventional chemicals under specific conditions.

EPA is proposing this new requirement under TSCA Section 8(a) to determine if further action, including additional information collection, is needed.

More information about the proposed rule, including the Federal Register notice, EPA fact sheet and press release, are available at http://www.epa.gov/oppt/nano/.


FY2016 EPA Budget Proposal

Grayson_Lynn_COLOR

By E. Lynn Grayson

 

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy recently testified before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee regarding EPA's proposed 2016 fiscal year budget. EPA's 2016 fiscal year from October 1, 2015 through September 30, 2016. EPA is seeking an increase of $453M over the FY2015 budget to $8.6B proposed in FY2016.

FY2016 budget highlights include funding to address:

1.     Making a visible difference in communities across the country—efforts focused on coordination with other federal agencies, states, tribes and stakeholders to provide community support for needed assistance and support for capacity building, planning, and implementation of environmental protection programs;

2.    Addressing climate change and improving air quality—actions to reduce climate change and support the President's Climate Action Plan including new proposed funding for greenhouse gases through commonsense standards, guidelines and voluntary programs;

3.    Protecting the Nation's Waters—focus on to ensure waterways are clean and drinking water is safe because there are far reaching effects when rivers, lakes and oceans become polluted;

4.    Taking steps to improve chemical facility safety—support to improve the safety and security of chemical facilities and reduce the risks of hazardous chemicals to facility workers and operators, communities and responders;

5.    Protecting our lands—continued work to cleanup hazardous and nonhazardous wastes that can migrate to air, groundwater and surface water and soils;

6.    Ensuring the safety of chemicals and preventing pollution—expand chemical safety programs and enhance quality, accessibility and usefulness of information about commercial chemicals and pesticides;

7.    Continuing EPA's commitment to innovative research & development—R&D efforts to address the interplay between air quality, climate change, water quality, healthy communities and chemical safety;

8.    Supporting state and tribal partners—new funds for categorical grants and setting the bar for continuing partnership efforts with states and tribes;

9.    Maintaining a forward looking and adaptive EPA—emphasis on physical footprint including space optimization and essential renovations of laboratories throughout the U.S.; and,

10.    Reducing and eliminating programs—elimination of programs that have served their purpose and accomplished their mission for a cost savings of $44M.

For more information on the proposed budget, visit http://www2.epa.gov/planandbudget/fy2016.


EPA TSCA Penalty Struck Down

Siros_Steven_COLORBy Steven M. Siros

 

On March 13, 2015, the Environmental Appeals Board ("EAB") struck down a landmark $2,751,800 penalty that had been imposed on Elementis Chromium for its alleged failure to comply with the Toxic Substances Control Act's ("TSCA") reporting obligations under Section 8(e). Under TSCA Section 8(e), companies are obligated to report information showing that chemicals and/or mixtures that they manufacture pose substantial health or environmental risks unless it can be demonstrated that U.S. EPA has been "adequately informed" of the health and/or environmental risks.

In November 2013, an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") ruled that Elementis had violated Section 8(e) by failing to report to U.S. EPA a 2002 study that allegedly showed an increased risk of lung cancers for workers exposed to hexavalent chromium and upheld a $2.5 million penalty that had been imposed by U.S. EPA. On appeal, Elementis argued that U.S. EPA's guidance on what needed to be reported under TSCA Section 8(e) was ambiguous and that Elementis could not have known that the 2002 study needed to reported, especially in light of the fact that OSHA had concluded that the study lacked any new risk information. Elementis also argued that the five-year statute of limitations provided for in 28 U.S.C. 2462 rendered U.S. EPA's claims time-barred (more than five years had lapsed between the time that Elementis had received the study in 2002 and U.S. EPA's 2010 enforcement proceeding).

The EAB agreed that Elementis was not required to provide the 2002 study to U.S. EPA. The link between hexavalent chromium and lung cancer has been known for decades and none of the information in the 2002 epidemiological study showed that hexavalent chromium exposure results in a more severe effect than lung cancer or a shorter time to the onset of lung cancer than was already documented in prior studies. The EAB noted that U.S. EPA's long-standing interpretive guidance provides that information is exempt from TSCA Section 8(e) reporting if it is corroborative of information U.S. EPA already is aware of. Per U.S. EPA, information is "corroborative" if it does not show that well-established adverse effect is of a more serious degree or different kind than previously known. Information may very well be new, different, and valuable without showing an adverse effect to be substantially more serious. However, unless such new information shows a more serious or different risk, per the EAB ruling, it does not need to be reported under TSCA Section 8(e).

Although the EAB reversed the ALJ's penalty determination, it did give U.S. EPA a victory on the statute of limitations issue. The EAB rejected Elementis' statute of limitations argument, finding that TSCA Section 8(e) imposed a continuing duty to report health and safety information. As such, a Section 8(e) violation constitutes a "continuing violation" for statute of limitations purposes. Thus, the period of limitations for a Section 8(e) violation commences anew each day that the information is not reported to U.S. EPA.

Please click here to read a copy of the EAB's March 13, 2015 decision.


California Seeks to Amend Proposition 65

Siros_Steven_COLORBy Steven M. Siros

 

On January 12, 2015, California's Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment ("OEHHA") proposed modifications to California's controversial Proposition 65 regulations. As any company that does business in California should know, Proposition 65 requires that a warning be provided for any product that contains one of hundreds of chemicals identified on the Proposition 65 list if there is any risk of a person being exposed to the listed chemical above a specified threshold. As a result, one is bombarded with Proposition 65 warnings from the point one disembarks onto the jet bridge until the time one arrives at his/her hotel and orders room service. OEHHA's proposed amendments to Proposition 65 appear to do little to ease the regulatory burden on companies that do business in California and/or minimize the burden of having to read all of the Proposition 65 warnings.

Overview of Proposed Changes

Warnings Must Now Identify Specific Chemicals: OEHHA has listed the following 12 chemicals which must be identified by name in any Proposition 65 warning: Acrylamide; Arsenic; Benzene; Cadmium; Carbon Monoxide; Chlorinated Tris; Formaldehyde; Hexavalent Chromium; Lead; Mercury; Methylene Chloride; and Phthalates.

Modified "Safe Harbor" Language: In order to avail oneself of the "safe harbor" warning, the warning must state that a product "can expose you" to a chemical or chemicals as opposed to the old "safe harbor" language that merely required that the warning state that the product "contains a chemical" that is known to the State to cause cancer or reproductive toxicity. In addition, for the following consumer products and services, specific warnings would be required: food and dietary supplements; alcoholic beverages; restaurant foods and non-alcoholic beverages; prescription drugs; dental care; furniture; diesel engine exhaust; parking facilities; amusement parks; designated smoking areas; petroleum products; service station and vehicle repair facilities.

New Lead Agency Website: The proposed regulations would also create a new section on the OEHHA website that would provide detailed information on products and exposures. OEHHA would also have the authority to request that businesses provide more detailed information, including estimated levels of exposure for listed chemicals.

Limited Responsibility for Retailers: Retailers would be relieved from Proposition 65 liability in most circumstances and the responsibility for providing the requisite Proposition 65 warning would fall squarely on the manufacturer, distributer, producer and/or packager.

OEHHA will be accepting written comments on the proposed changes until April 8, 2015. Not surprisingly, OEHHA's proposed regulations have not been warmly received by industry and it is expected that affected businesses and trade associations will be submitting comments in opposition to these proposed amendments. Please click here and here to see the text of the proposed amendments.


Environmental Groups Sue Over Applicability of TRI Data

Grayson_Lynn_COLOR

By E. Lynn Grayson

 

A recent lawsuit filed by 10 environmental groups against EPA alleges that EPCRA Section 313 Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) reporting should apply to oil and gas extraction companies. The environmental groups want TRI data regulatory requirements about releases to the environment to apply to oil drilling and exploration, hydraulic fracturing and natural gas processing activities.

According to the lawsuit recently filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, EPA conducted rulemaking in the 1996-1997 time frame to consider adding other industry sectors to the list of facilities required to complete TRI reporting. At that time, EPA concluded that "oil and gas extraction classified in SIC code 13 is believed to conduct significant management activities that involve EPCRA Section 313 chemicals." EPA did not regulate the oil and gas industry following these earlier rulemaking efforts and for that reason, in 2012, environmental groups petitioned EPA to initiate rulemaking to add the oil and gas industry to TRI reporting requirements. The lawsuit alleges that EPA has not responded to that petition.

The environmental groups also allege that 127 tons of hazardous air pollutants are released by the oil and gas industry annually as well as other releases to the environment through discharges to surface waters, contamination of groundwater, underground injection and disposal in landfills. The lawsuit contends that regulation of the oil and gas industry is even more important today given the expansion of hydraulic fracturing and  horizontal drilling.

The environmental groups bringing the lawsuit include the: Environmental Integrity Project, Center for Effective Government, Chesapeake Climate Action Network, Citizens for Pennsylvania's Future, Clean Air Council, Delaware Riverkeeper Network, Natural Resources Defense Council, Responsible Drilling Alliance, and Texas Campaign for the Environment.

The oil and gas industry has concluded that TRI requirements never were intended to cover such facilities given the few employees typically involved in these operations and the multitude of other regulations applicable to the oil and gas industry. They also look to the 1996-1997 rulemaking effort but with a different recollection recalling that EPA confirmed at that time that "…This industry group is unique in that it may have related activities located over significantly large geographic areas. While together these activities may involve the management of significant quantities of EPCRA section 313 chemicals in addition to requiring significant employee involvement, taken at the smallest unit (individual well), neither the employee nor the chemical thresholds are likely to be met." Industry advocates have criticized these environmental groups, and particularly the Environmental Integrity Project, for attempting to manipulate data in order to oppose oil and gas development and seeking to impose additional regulatory requirements on an industry already heavily regulated.

The TRI program is an expansive regulatory initiative that mandates annual reporting obligations for certain facilities that fall within specific industry sectors, have 10 or more full time employees and manufacture or process 25,000 pounds of toxic chemicals subject to EPCRA Section 313 or otherwise use 10,000 pounds of these same chemicals in any given year. It is typically the case that  many of the oil and gas extraction operations would not meet these reporting thresholds as previously concluded by EPA. It appears, however, that this issue may be debated once again in the context of this case.


Governor Quinn Nixes Illinois Statute of Repose for Construction Asbestos Claims

Siros_Steven_COLORBy Steven M. Siros

 

In one of his last acts on the way out of office, Governor Quinn gave what some describe as a "big Christmas gift for the plaintiffs' bar" when he signed into law a bill that exempts construction-related asbestos personal injury claims from Illinois' ten-year statute of repose. SB 2221 was targeted at plaintiffs suffering from mesothelioma, a form of lung cancer with a long latency period. The bill will go into effect on June 1, 2015.

The bill was opposed by pro-business groups which argued that the bill only further reinforced Illinois' reputation for having an abusive legal climate. According to Illinois Lawsuit Abuse Watch, Madison County, Illinois is home to a quarter of the nation's asbestos litigation and this bill will certainly enable additional asbestos litigation. On the other hand, the bill's sponsors contend that the bill levels the playing field for those suffering from mesothelioma, a disease for which the symptoms may not present themselves for more than 20 years after exposure. Please click here to see a copy of the bill that was signed into law by Governor Quinn.


TSCA Reform Dead for 2014?

Siros_Steven_COLORBy Steven M. Siros

 

Recent actions by Senator Barbara Boxer may have sounded the death knell for TSCA reform in 2014.  On September 18, 2014, Senator Boxer unveiled what she characterized as revisions to a TSCA reform bill that had been being worked on by a bi-partisan committee within the Senate.  Senator Boxer's proposed revisions included the full text of what Senator David Vitter characterized as a  confidential draft version of the TSCA reform bill that was still being negotiated.  According to a statement released by Senator Vitter, "[w]e've worked for over a year on bipartisan negotiations in good faith.  In contrast, Senator Boxer has released our confidential proposal to the press.  That speaks for itself—it's not a good faith effort to reach consensus but a press stunt/temper tantrum" Senator Vitter indicated in a public statement.  As such, Senator Vitter has indicated that he will now go back to supporting Senate Bill 1009 as originally introduced in April 2013.

Senator Boxer's proposed revisions would eliminate any preemptive effect of TSCA on state and/or local regulations, resulting in a continuing patchwork of inconsistent state regulations.  Senator Boxer's proposed revisions would also change the "unreasonable risk or harm to human health or the environment" trigger to state that a chemical must "not pose harm to human health or the environment." 

Not surprisingly, Senator Boxer's proposed revisions have been widely applauded by environmental advocacy groups and strongly criticized by industry and the American Chemistry Council.  In any event, both sides of the issue will likely conceed that TSCA reform is dead until after the November 2014 elections.


EPA May Garnish Wage Without Court Approval

Grayson_Lynn_COLORBy E. Lynn Grayson

 

EPA recently announced it plans to take final action later this year to authorize collection of non-tax debts by garnishing wages which may occur without a court order. Public comments submitted to date on EPA's proposed action express concern that the Agency may be exceeding its authority and that such actions may deprive individuals of their due process rights.

The EPA has claimed this new authority by citing the Debt Collection Improvement Act of 1996, which gives all federal agencies the power to conduct administrative wage garnishment, provided that the agency allows for hearings at which debtors can challenge the amount or the terms of a repayment schedule. Administrative Wage Garnishment (AWG) would apply only after EPA attempts to collect delinquent debts and after Treasury attempts to collect delinquent debts through other means. The agency would provide notice "prior to any action," giving the debtor the opportunity to "review, contest or enter into a repayment agreement."

EPA's proposal has been actively opposed by a number of watch dog and industry organizations. In addition, members of the House and Senate have argued that the proposed action is an improper expansion of EPA authority and many note it could hurt public impressions of EPA.

EPA's response has been that the Agency is proposing to do what 30 other federal agencies have done and what Congress directly empowered all agencies to do: collect debts owed to the federal government in a responsible and fair way.

EPA's proposed rule to amend its claims collection standards to include AWG can be viewed at 79 Fed. Reg. 37,704.

The amount EPA has collected in fines has increased since President Obama took office with $252M received in 2012, up from $96M in 2009. As Dan Goldbeck of the American Action Forum appropriately noted ". . . the order is certainly controversial and is a strong reminder that even a few pages of the Federal Register can pack serious administrative consequences."


U.S. EPA 2013 TRI Preliminary Dataset Now Available

B Essig_Genevieve_COLORy: Genevieve Essig

 

EPA has released the 2013 Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) preliminary dataset, which contains toxic chemical release and pollution prevention data reported by facilities for the 2013 calendar year.  The currently available dataset includes reporting forms processed as of July 9, 2014 (the annual reporting deadline is July 1); EPA plans to update the dataset throughout the summer and release the complete dataset in October.  The TRI National Analysis Report, which is developed on an annual basis to provide the public information on “how toxic chemicals were managed, where toxic chemicals were released, and how [that year’s] TRI data compare to data from previous years,” will be issued in January 2015 based on this data.  2013 was the first year that facilities were required to submit their TRI reporting forms electronically using the TRI-MEweb reporting application.

The dataset is accessible through EPA’s Envirofacts system, which includes search functions that allow a user to utilize the data in a number of ways.  It is also available through downloadable TRI data files.  EPA suggests that one may use the preliminary dataset to conduct such tasks as the following:

  • Determine if a particular facility has reported to TRI.
  • Determine what chemicals a particular facility is using and releasing into the environment, or otherwise managing as waste.
  • Find out if a particular facility initiated any pollution prevention activities in the most recent calendar year.
  • Begin conducting research into toxic chemical releases across the United States or in a specific geographical area.

Various other online TRI tools will be updated beginning in September.