Green Chemistry Regulations:
After nearly two years of public meetings, informal comment periods and other multi-stakeholder collaborative efforts, the California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) released on September 15, 2010 its proposed Safer Consumer Product Alternatives regulations, a key component of California’s Green Chemistry Initiative. The proposed regulations would require DTSC to create a list of chemicals identified as posing the greatest threats to human health or the environment, the so-called “Priority Chemicals.” Using a number of factors such as volume in commerce and extent of public exposure, DTSC would then prioritize products containing those chemicals. Entities responsible for commercial introduction of the highest priority products, the so-called “Priority Products,” would be required to perform an alternatives assessment to determine whether a viable safer alternative is available. The alternative ultimately selected would inform DTSC’s regulatory response, which could range from no action to sales prohibitions.
The proposed regulations represent a paradigm shift in the regulation of chemicals and products, having significant implications for all members of a product’s value chain. The process for identifying Priority Chemicals and Priority Products is complicated and information-intensive. Products undergoing an alternatives assessment will require a substantial resource commitment. To help ensure compliance, reduce the risk of reputational harm, maintain market presence, and potentially identify new opportunities, companies will need to understand the process, closely monitor future DTSC pronouncements and be prepared to respond appropriately.
Companies placing products into the stream of commerce in California that have not yet reviewed the proposed regulations are probably doing so now. Although many industry representatives actively participated in the collaborative drafting process, many more did not, mistakenly believing that their products were not “consumer products” and therefore would not be affected. The reality is that only a limited universe of products is excluded from the definition of consumer product or otherwise eligible for some type of exemption.
Public comments on the proposed regulations are due on November 1, 2010, the same date as the public hearing on them. DTSC intends to complete the formal rulemaking process by the end of 2010, as required by statute. A copy of the proposed regulations, a set of Frequently Asked Questions, a conceptual flowchart, and other information is available here.
Readers that are familiar with the previous draft of the regulations may be interested in the type of changes that DTSC incorporated into the current proposal. DTSC claims that the changes:
- Address criticism that the initial scope of chemicals list was too narrow. DTSC has significantly broadened the proposed scope by expanding the lists of authoritative bodies that could be consulted for establishing the Priority Chemicals list.
- Respond to concerns that the previous draft regulation’s lack of deadlines could cause unintended delays. Proposed deadlines are now included for both chemicals and products lists along with specific timelines for various regulatory steps. (These are set out in more detail below.)
- Additionally, DTSC has added a tiered process for alternative assessments intended to reduce the time for identifying safer alternatives and provide more specific performance targets to move manufacturers through the regulatory process.
- Address comments regarding the complexity of the process. DTSC has simplified the process somewhat and clarified what information would be required and how it would be submitted.
- Respond to requests to have public comments on regulatory actions. DTSC now proposes to allow public comment on any regulatory responses that are triggered by a DTSC ruling or determination.
The proposed regulations include the following deadlines:
- The proposed initial list of Chemicals under Consideration must be issued for public review and comment no later than June 1, 2011;
- The final initial list of Chemicals under Consideration must be issued no later than March 1, 2012;
- The proposed initial list of Priority Chemicals must be issued for public review and comment no later than July 1, 2012;
- The proposed initial list of Products under Consideration must be issued for public review and comment no later than March 1, 2013;
- The proposed initial list of Priority Products must be issued for public review and comment no later than September 1, 2013;
- The final initial list of Priority Products must be issued no later than December 1, 2013.
Future postings may delve further into various aspects of the proposed regulations, as well as review public comments that are submitted to DTSC.