Congressional subcommittee reviews CSIA, EPA reveals its views.

As we reported last week, the House Subcommittee on Environment and the Economy held a hearing to review the Chemical Safety Improvement Act (S. 1009) (CSIA) on November 13, 2013. At the hearing, EPA for the first time revealed its views on a number of CSIA provisions, although it has not developed a formal position on the Act.

Jim Jones, EPA assistant administrator of the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, was among the ten witnesses who testified at the hearing. During the questioning period of the hearing, Jones identified areas of CSIA that were improvements over TSCA, such as the requirement under Section 5 for an affirmative finding of safety by EPA on new chemical notifications, the ability to use order authority under Section 4 to obtain testing, and the ability to share confidential business information (CBI) with states.

Jones also identified issues that warranted further discussion, such as whether the requirement under Section 6 for extensive analysis of alternatives could lead to “paralysis by analysis,” whether judicial review of “low priority” decisions should be barred, and whether consideration of vulnerable populations under safety assessments should be extended to safety determinations and risk management actions. In addition, Jones called for a better balance of preemption issues, stronger deadlines, and clearer testing requirements under Section 4.

At the hearing, Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) said that he and Senator David Vitter (R-LA) were focused on three main issues: making sure EPA has the tools it needs to protect citizens and review the existing chemicals in commerce, preserving private rights of action against companies, and protecting the ability of states to safeguard their citizens. A day earlier, Sen. Vitter had made a renewed push for the CSIA’s passage, following a National Research Council (NRC) report that recommended improvements in the EPA’s assessment of inorganic arsenic. Sen. Vitter cited the report as a “prime example of why EPA’s risks assessments are flawed,” and called it “embarrassing” that EPA needed supervision in one of its key roles.

However, the overall tone at the hearing was very courteous among the Committee members and between the Chair and the witnesses. Sen. Vitter stressed his and Sen. Udall’s willingness to work with anyone committed to meaningful bipartisan reform, and most of those present at the hearing promised continued attempts to reach a consensus bill.

EPA agrees to update enforcement guidance for FIFRA and TSCA.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has agreed to update its enforcement guidance for the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) and Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) following a report [PDF] from the agency’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) released on September 27, 2013. The report contained findings and recommendations related to FIFRA and TSCA good faith reductions and “ability to pay” penalties, based on the OIG’s review of 23 FIFRA cases and 20 TSCA cases (13 lead disclosure and 7 PCB cases).

The OIG found that EPA regions differed in how they assessed FIFRA and TSCA enforcement penalty reductions; some appeared to justify reductions automatically, without considering the good faith compliance efforts of the violators. Because of the lack of adequate guidance and supporting documentation for determining and justifying good faith penalty reductions, there is a risk that EPA might treat violators inequitably and might be losing opportunities to fully collect all penalties due. Based on the OIG’s findings and recommendations, EPA has agreed to reissue the enforcement policy document GM-88, “Documenting Penalty Calculations and Justifications in EPA Enforcement Actions.”

The OIG also found that EPA’s enforcement response and penalty policy for lead-based paint disclosure rule to address violators who are unable to pay penalties is inadequate. Specifically, no guidance exists for applying non-monetary penalty alternatives (such as public service or delayed payment plans) when violators do not have the cash to pay the penalty. EPA has agreed to evaluate whether additional guidance is needed to clarify whether non-monetary alternatives must meet the agency’s existing Supplemental Environmental Projects policy.

In addition, the OIG report found that EPA’s “INDIPAY” economic model may be limited in its ability to help teams evaluate individuals’ claims of inability to afford penalties or clean-up costs. According to the OIG, the INDIPAY model does not assess an individual’s assets and should be updated to improve its accuracy. Furthermore, the report found that EPA does not provide adequate guidance or case development training to help regional teams evaluate ability to pay cases. In order to improve the agency’s consistency in handling the growing number of ability to pay cases, EPA has agreed to provide regional staff with updated training for case development of ability to pay claims. EPA also agreed to update its 1986 document “Guidance on Determining a Violator’s Ability to Pay a Civil Penalty” [PDF] to further improve guidance on evaluating ability to pay cases and address the inadequacies of the INDIPAY model.

US EPA unveils ChemView, substance information web portal.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has launched ChemView, a web portal that will serve as a hub for chemical-specific regulatory information developed by EPA, as well as data collected under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).

The portal presents key health and safety data in a format that allows users to compare chemicals by their use as well as their health and environmental effects. ChemView will also allow searches by chemical name or Chemical Abstracts Service (CAS) number, use, hazard effect or regulatory action. Users can customize their views of the information on individual chemicals, or compare multiple chemicals by use, hazard effect or other criteria. Links to background documents are also provided for more detail.

At this time, ChemView contains:

  • test rule data for 90 chemicals;
  • hazard characterizations for 1,016 chemicals;
  • Design for the Environment (DfE) Alternatives Assessments for 48 chemicals; and
  • Significant New Use Rules (SNURs) for 349 chemicals that did not go through pre-market EPA review – the so-called existing chemicals.

It also links to other data, including:

  • health and safety studies submitted under TSCA section 8(d) for 140 chemicals;
  • substantial risk reports submitted under TSCA section 8(e) for 261 chemicals;
  • high production volume voluntary submissions for 1,169 chemicals;
  • Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) assessments for 548 chemicals;
  • DfE list of safer chemical ingredients for 602 chemicals;
  • Chemical Data Reporting information for 7,221 chemicals; and
  • Toxics Release Inventory data for 611 chemicals.

EPA said that in the months ahead, it will be continuously adding additional chemicals, functionality and links. When fully developed, the portal will hold data on thousands of chemicals. The agency stated that increasing health and safety information, as well as identifying safer chemical ingredients, would help manufacturers and retailers better differentiate their products by using safer ingredients.

The agency has considered stakeholder input in the design of the site and is currently seeking comments from the public on its usability.

EPA Expands List of Safer Chemical Ingredients.

This week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) added more than 130 chemicals to its Safer Chemical Ingredients List, which contains chemicals that meet the criteria of EPA’s Design for the Environment (DfE) Safer Product Labeling Program. For the first time, 119 fragrance chemicals for commercial and consumer cleaning products have also been added to the list.

Fragrance, although still thought to be a relatively low safety hazard compared to other chemicals, has become a health concern because of its unlisted ingredients. A study by the consumer advocacy groups Environmental Working Group and the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics tested 17 popular fragrances and found that the average fragrance product contained 14 undisclosed chemicals. Among them were phthalates, which are used to soften plastic and belong to the class of endocrine-disrupting chemicals that may affect the body’s hormone system.

With the addition of the new chemicals, the Safer Chemical Ingredient list now contains 602 chemicals. Established in September 2012, it serves as a resource for consumers, product manufacturers, and environmental and health advocates interested in the use of safer chemical ingredients in products. Product manufacturers can also use the guide to identify chemical ingredients that meet the DfE program’s rigorous scientific standards for protecting human health and the environment. More than 2,500 products are certified under the DfE Standard for Safer Products including all-purpose cleaners, laundry and dishwasher detergents, window cleaners, car and boat care, and many other products.