Community Sues EPA Over Terms for Production of Petrochemical Fuel

Cherokee Concerned Citizens, on behalf of the Cherokee Forest neighborhood  a fenceline community in Pascagoula, Mississippi, has filed a petition in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit for review of a TSCA section 5(e) consent order. The consent order covers 18 chemicals that were the subject of premanufacture notifications submitted by Chevron in 2021. In its press release announcing the litigation, Earthjustice asserted that the production of these chemicals would result in air pollution that would pose a 1 in 4 cancer risk (25 % of the residents living nearby could develop cancer over their lifetime), 250,000 times greater than what the Agency typically considers unreasonable.

TSCA requires EPA to regulate the manufacturing, processing, and distribution of substances that present an unreasonable risk of injury to health or the environment without consideration of costs or other non-risk factors. The Statute states that the Administrator shall issue consent orders and significant new use rules “to the extent necessary to protect against such risk.”

EPA identified skin and eye irritation; acute toxicity; systemic toxicity (neurotoxicity, body weight effects, and liver, kidney, blood, spleen, and other organ effects); reproductive and developmental toxicity; oral and inhalation portal of entry effects; genetic toxicity; and carcinogenicity as hazards of these New Chemical Substances. These hazards were identified based on the substance’s estimated physical/chemical properties by comparing them to compositionally analogous mixtures for which there is information on human health hazard, using available human hazard information on representative constituents of these New Chemical Substances, and other structural information. As is often the case with PMNs, there were no experimentally derived hazard data for these New Chemical Substances.  For a number of the substances, risks were identified for the general population (infants) for systemic and/or oral portal-of-entry effects via drinking water. Risks to adults for this exposure route were also identified. In addition, risks were identified for the general population for systemic and/or inhalation portal-of-entry effects via fugitive air inhalation for some of the substances at issue.

The consent order imposes worker protection and limitations on the distribution of the new chemical substances. It does not restrict air emissions or wastewater discharges of the substances. The Chevron facility called out by Earthjustice is permitted under the Clean Air and the Clean Water Acts.

EPA Improves ChemView

EPA uses ChemView as a means for the public to access information about chemicals under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).  The web application allows searches for information such as volumes reported to the Chemical Data Reporting Rule, Premanufacture Notification determinations, section 5(e) consent orders, health and safety studies submitted under section 8(d) and section 8(e) substantial risk reports.  Only non-confidential business information is accessible.  EPA announced they have also been working to improve ChemView to reduce the delay between when the Agency receives information and when it publishes that information – EPA is trying to achieve near real-time publication.  The Agency is also working to enhance transparency in its processes for evaluating potential risks posed by different chemicals.

EPA is required to publish certain information under TSCA section 5(d), such as the list of new chemical submissions received, microbial commercial activity notices, premanufacture notices, and significant new-use notices. Throughout 2022, EPA used ChemView to make available more than 25,000 new chemical notice records that EPA has received under TSCA section 5.  The 25,000 new chemical notice records include previously unpublished records from 2014 through 2019. EPA plans to continue publishing previously unpublished records into the future and is currently publishing new records within five days of receiving them.

As noted above, EPA also uses ChemView to publish records received under TSCA section 8, including substantial risk reports.  Throughout 2022, EPA published 3,900 substantial risk reports, including over 3,300 reports received from the beginning of 2019 through the end of 2021; all of which were previously unpublished.

EPA Proposes Methylene Chloride Ban

On April 20, 2023, EPA released a proposed rule under Section 6(a) of the Toxic Substances Control Act (“TSCA”) that would drastically limit the use of methylene chloride. Section 6(a) of the statute provides EPA authority to ban or restrict the manufacture, processing, distribution, and use of chemical substances that pose an unreasonable risk of injury to human health or the environment. EPA explains that its decision is driven by concerns about the risks posed to workers, occupational non-users, consumers, and individuals in close proximity to consumer usage. The Agency stated that it is particularly concerned about adverse health effects such as neurotoxicity, liver damage, and cancer resulting from inhalation and dermal exposure to methylene chloride.

EPA’s proposed rule seeks to “rapidly phase down” the manufacturing, processing, and distribution of methylene chloride for consumer use, as well as most industrial and commercial uses. The phase down is expected to be completed within 15 months of the effective date of the final rule. EPA’s analysis indicates that alternative products with similar cost and effectiveness to methylene chloride are generally available for most of the that the Agency intends to prohibit.

According to EPA, methylene chloride poses an unreasonable health risk, without considering costs or other non-risk factors, including an unreasonable risk to potentially exposed or vulnerable subpopulations identified as relevant in the 2020 methylene chloride risk evaluation, under specific conditions of use (“COU”). (EPA defines COU as the circumstances in which a chemical substance is intended, known, or reasonably foreseen to be manufactured, processed, distributed in commerce, used, or disposed of.) To address the unreasonable risk, EPA proposes the following restrictions:

  • Prohibit the manufacture, processing, and distribution of methylene chloride for all consumer use.
  • Prohibit most industrial and commercial uses of methylene chloride.
  • Enforce a workplace chemical protection program (“WCPP”) that includes inhalation exposure concentration limits, workplace exposure monitoring, and exposure controls for ten specific conditions of use of methylene chloride.
  • Require recordkeeping and downstream notification requirements for the manufacturing, processing, and distribution of methylene chloride in commerce.

The rule does provide an exemption to the prohibition on industrial uses for ten years for civilian aviation uses to prevent significant disruptions to critical infrastructure. This exemption will be subject to conditions such as compliance with the WCPP.  An exemption is also provided for emergency use of methylene chloride in support of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s mission. The exemption is limited to specific critical or essential conditions when no technically and economically feasible safer alternatives are available. This exemption will also require compliance with the WCPP. It too is time-limited to ten years.

EPA clarified that all COUs of methylene chloride under TSCA (except its use in consumer paint and coating removers, which was previously addressed under TSCA Section 6) will be covered by this proposal.

Regarding the WCPP for methylene chloride, EPA’s press release states that the agency collaborated with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) during the development of the proposed rule, taking into account existing OSHA requirements to ensure comprehensive worker protections. The Agency asserts that the proposed risk-based limits are based on up-to-date data and fulfill the TSCA mandate to eliminate unreasonable risks. If the rule is finalized, employers would have one year to comply with the WCPP and would be obligated to periodically monitor the workplace to ensure that workers are not exposed to methylene chloride at levels that pose an unreasonable risk.

In the Federal Register notice, EPA particularly requested comments on the feasibility and effectiveness of the proposed worker protection requirements from parties that would be responsible for implementing the program. (The comment period closed on July 3.) Additionally, EPA hosted a public webinar on June 7 to present overview of the proposed regulatory action and provide an opportunity for participation in discussion on the proposed WCCP. Materials from the webinar are available on EPA’s website.

EPA Hosts CERCLA PFAS Enforcement Listening Sessions

In March, EPA hosted two public listening sessions requesting individual feedback regarding concerns about PFAS liability under CERCLA. The listening sessions follow the Agency’s August 2022 proposed rule, which would designate two of the most widely used PFAS as hazardous substances under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (“CERCLA”). EPA  has stated that the information gathered during these sessions and any written comments submitted on the topic will be reviewed and considered in drafting its enforcement and discretion policy.

The webinars each began with presentations summarizing CERCLA, detailing the potential harms of PFAS substances, and describing EPA’s plan to issue an enforcement discretion and settlement policy. In addition to comments voiced during the webinars, EPA is reviewing written comments received on the proposed rule. The Agency stated it intends to focus enforcement efforts on manufacturers, federal facilities, and other industrial parties whose actions result in the release of significant amounts of PFAS. EPA clarified that parties that resolve their liability with EPA through settlement would not be liable for third-party claims. Therefore, settlements may provide CERCLA contribution protection to some parties. The Agency’s enforcement discretion policy will be contingent on a party’s cooperation, and it retains the ability to address any situations which present imminent and substantial endangerment.

The Agency also commented on parties against which it does not intend to pursue CERCLA enforcement for PFAS contamination, including:

  • Water utilities and publicly owned treatment works;
  • Publicly owned and/or operated municipal solid waste landfills;
  • Farms that apply biosolids; and
  • Certain airports and fire departments.

EPA further commented that enforcement discretion under this policy would be limited to CERCLA and not impact EPA enforcement actions under any other applicable statute.

EPA has posted the recordings of the sessions, which can be viewed here.

EPA Publishes ANPRM Seeking Information to Assist in Consideration of Future CERCLA Regulations Regarding PFAS

On April 13, 2023, EPA published an advance notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPRM) seeking input and data regarding potential future hazardous substance designation under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) of a number of PFAS substances. The ANPRM identifies PFOA, PFOS, seven other PFAS and their salts and structural isomers, precursors to PFOA and PFOS, and several categories of PFAS as candidates for this designation.

EPA is requesting public input to assist in the potential development of future regulations under CERCLA Section 102(a). Section 102(a) authorizes the EPA Administrator to promulgate regulations designating as hazardous substances that, when released into the environment, may present a substantial danger to the public health or welfare or the environment. The seven PFAS for which EPA is requesting input on are:

  • Perfluorobutanesulfonic acid (PFBS), Chemical Abstracts Service Registry Number (“CAS RN”) 375-73-5;
  • Perfluorohexanesulfonic acid (PFHxS), CAS RN 355-46-4;
  • Perfluorononanoic acid (PFNA), CAS RN 375-95-1;
  • Hexafluoropropylene oxide dimer acid (HFPO-DA), CAS RN 13252-13-6 (sometimes called GenX);
  • Perfluorobutanoic acid (PFBA), CAS RN 375-22-4;
  • Perfluorohexanoic acid (PFHxA), CAS RN 307-24-4; and
  • Perfluorodecanoic acid (PFDA), CAS RN 335-76-2.

Regarding these seven PFAS, EPA solicited the following information:

  • Published scientific literature regarding the environmental fate and transport.
  • Information that EPA could consider in preparing an economic analysis of the potential direct and indirect costs and benefits associated with a potential rulemaking designating any of the above-mentioned compounds as hazardous substances.

Regarding information around the PFAS precursors, EPA is requesting the following :

  • Published scientific literature or data regarding the environmental degradation of the precursors to PFOA, PFOS, PFBS, PFHxS, PFNA, HFPO-DA, PFBA, PFHxA, and/or PFDA.
  • Published scientific literature that characterizes the environmental prevalence of these substances.
  • Methods for measuring these substances in environmental samples.

EPA is also requesting information to help inform its decision-making on whether to designate further PFAS groups or categories as hazardous substances under CERCLA. It is requesting information on published scientific literature that can inform whether categories of PFAS could be designated as hazardous substances:

In addition, EPA asked for input on whether there are other PFAS that the Agency could consider designating as hazardous substances in a possible future rulemaking. The ANPRM requests references to published scientific information these on the hazards for substances that commentors identify in response to this request.

EPA Receipt of Pesticide Petitions Files for Residues

Late last year, EPA published receipt of initial pesticide petitions filed regarding residues of pesticide chemicals in or on various commodities by representatives of RRStewart Consulting, LLC, Delta Analytical Corporation on behalf of Borchers Americas, Inc., Crop Enhancement, Columbia River Carbonates, BASF Corporation, American Spice Trade Association, and Interregional Research Project Number 4.  EPA intends to review the data from the petitions filed under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA) to determine whether such actions are warranted.  As specified by FFDCA section 408(d)(3), 21 U.S.C. 346a(d)(3), EPA is required to publish notices regarding petitions received so that the public has an opportunity to comment on requests for the establishment or modification of regulations for residues of pesticides in or on food commodities.  The comment period for these particular petitions has closed.

The petitions include five different requests for tolerance exemptions for various chemicals. All of the exemptions requests were made under 40 CFR §180, which details the requirements for food tolerances and exemptions for pesticide chemicals in food.

RRStewart Consulting, LLC, on behalf of Aicello America Corporation, requested a tolerance exemption for residues of diglycerol.  This request is for use of the chemical as a plasticizer inert ingredient in pesticide formulations used on crops.

Delta Analytical Corporation on behalf of Borchers Americas, Inc., requested that EPA establish an exemption for .alpha.-D-Glucopyranoside, .beta.-D-fructofuranosyl, polymer with 2-methyloxirane and oxirane.  The exemption would be for use of the chemical as a pesticide inert ingredient in various pesticide formulations. The petition also requested that EPA treat the chemical as an inert ingredient in a pesticide chemical formulation for which tolerance requirements are exempted under FFDCA section 408 if the chemical use follows good agricultural or manufacturing practices.

Crop Enhancement requested a tolerance exemption for residues of the insecticide/miticide linseed oil for when use in or on all raw agricultural commodities.

Columbia River Carbonates requested a tolerance exemption for residues of the biochemical active ingredient calcium carbonate for use in or on all agricultural food commodities.

BASF Corporation, Agricultural Products requested a tolerance exemption for residues of the herbicide imazapic for use in or on rice grains at 0.05 parts per million (ppm) and in or on rice bran at 0.2 ppm.  The company also requested a tolerance exemption for the herbicide imazapyr for use in or on rice grains at 0.06 ppm and in or on rice bran at 0.2 ppm.

American Spice Trade Association requested a tolerance exemption for residues of the pesticide cypermethrin in or on raw agricultural spice commodities.  American Spice Trade Association specifically named dozens of different types of spices in its request, including anise pepper, ashwagandha fruit, batavia-cassia fruit, belleric myrobalan, and caper buds.

Interregional Research Project Number 4 requested a tolerance exemption for residues of the fungicide cyprodinil 4-cyclopropyl-6-methyl-N-phenyl-2-pyrimidinamine in or on cranberries at 0.4 ppm.


EPA Takes Action Against Denka for Air Pollution

On March 20, 2023, the Department of Justice (“DOJ”), on behalf of EPA, filed a motion for a preliminary injunction under the Clean Air Act (“CAA”), asking the federal district court for the eastern district of Louisiana to order Denka Performance Elastomer LLC (“Denka”) to immediately reduce chloroprene emissions from its neoprene manufacturing facility in LaPlace, Louisiana. The motion follows DOJ’s February complaint arguing that plant operations present an imminent and substantial endangerment to public health and welfare due to cancer risks posed by Denka’s chloroprene emissions.

The Denka facility is currently the only facility in the country producing neoprene, a flexible, synthetic rubber used to manufacture a variety of products, including wetsuits, automotive belts and hoses, and orthopedic braces. Chloroprene is a liquid raw material used to produce neoprene.  It is emitted into the air from various production processes at the facility.

In 2010, EPA Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) found that chloroprene is “likely to be carcinogenic to humans.” In a separate civil proceeding, Denka has challenged the process by which the Environmental Protection Agency considered the scientific information supporting its understanding of the human health risks posed by chloroprene.

According to the complaint, air monitoring conducted by both the EPA and Denka over the past several years consistently shows chloroprene concentrations in the air near Denka’s LaPlace facility that are as high as 14 times the recommended levels.  In the complaint, DOJ expressed particular concern for students attending the 5th Ward Elementary School, located approximately 450 feet from Denka’s facility.

Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta commented on the complaint stating, “We allege that Denka’s emissions have led to unsafe concentrations of carcinogenic chloroprene near homes and schools in St. John the Baptist Parish, Louisiana. The Justice Department’s environmental justice efforts require ensuring that every community, no matter its demographics, can breathe clean air and drink clean water. Our suit aims to stop Denka’s dangerous pollution.”

EPA Releasing Additional Data on the Ongoing Uses of Chrysotile Asbestos

On March 17, 2023, EPA released additional data for public comment related to the proposed risk management rule for chrysotile asbestos. The proposed rule, introduced in April 2022, aims to prohibit the ongoing use of the only known form of asbestos currently imported into the United States, chrysotile asbestos. The Agency claims that if implemented, the rule will protect people from the unreasonable risk to human health presented by chrysotile asbestos. EPA evaluated human health risks for chrysotile asbestos in Part 1 of the Risk Evaluation for Asbestos; and is currently working on Part 2 of the Risk Evaluation for Asbestos. That document will evaluate legacy uses and associated disposals, including other types of asbestos fibers in addition to chrysotile.

EPA originally proposed that the prohibition on the commercial use of chrysotile asbestos would occur two years after the effective date of the final rule to give facilities time to transition away from asbestos technology. However, after the comment period, EPA received comments and met with stakeholders, including affected industry and other interested groups, about the use of chrysotile asbestos diaphragms in the chlor-alkali industry and chrysotile asbestos-containing sheet gaskets used in chemical production. Raw chrysotile asbestos currently imported into the U.S. is used exclusively by the chlor-alkali industry. It is a main component of systems used for the disinfection of drinking water, but most chlor-alkali plants no longer use asbestos diaphragms, and alternatives are available.

Many commenters argued that the two-year timeline would not provide the chlor-alkali industry with a reasonable transition period and requested additional time to allow the industry to transition away from asbestos-containing diaphragms.  According to EPA, a letter from the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO) provides contrasting information that shows that the chlor-alkali industry has shut down a substantial portion of its asbestos diaphragm production capacity in the last three years and is in the process of transitioning to non-asbestos membrane technology.

EPA is seeking comments on how to consider the additional information received regarding maintaining the prohibition compliance dates, staggering the prohibition compliance dates, or establishing longer deadlines for the prohibition on processing, distribution in commerce, and commercial use of chrysotile asbestos. EPA also seeks comments on the new information provided regarding the practicability of measuring 0.005 fibers per cubic centimeter (f/cc) and 0.0025 f/cc for an eight-hour work shift by existing sampling and analytical protocols. Further, the Agency requests suggestions as to how EPA could effectively implement interim exposure reduction requirements in a way that they are compatible with Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requirements and industrial hygiene practices.

EPA states that the Agency plans to use the data it collects during this comment period in the development of the final rule, including the proposed chrysotile asbestos prohibition compliance dates for these uses.

EPA Proposes PFAS Drinking Water Standard

On March 14, EPA released a proposed rule establishing national drinking water standards for PFAS. The proposed rule is part of the Agency’s PFAS Strategic Roadmap. It seeks to regulate PFOA and PFOS as individual contaminants and four additional PFAS (PFNA, PFHxS, PFBS, and GenX chemicals) as mixtures. EPA intends to regulate PFOA and PFOS at the lowest level of which they can be reliably measured, which the Agency has determined to be 4 parts per trillion.

For the additional four PFAS, EPA proposed maximum concentration limits (MCLs) for any mixture containing one or more of these substances. This would require water systems to use an approach called Hazard Index Calculation to determine if the combined levels of these PFAS pose a potential risk. Hazard Indexing is a tool used to evaluate the health risks of simultaneous exposure to mixtures of related chemicals. To determine the Hazard Index for these four PFAS, water systems would  be required to monitor drinking water and compare the amount of each PFAS in the water to its associated Health-Based Water Concentration (HBWC). HBWCs are the levels at which no health effects are expected.

In remarks accompanying the Agency’s press release on the proposed rule, Administrator Michael S. Regan commented, “EPA’s proposal to establish a national standard for PFAS in drinking water is informed by the best available science and would help provide states with the guidance they need to make decisions that best protect their communities. This action has the potential to prevent tens of thousands of PFAS-related illnesses and marks a major step toward safeguarding all our communities from these dangerous contaminants.”

The proposed rule is causing great concern in the wastewater utility and chemicals industries.  They are apprehensive about the logistical and financial hurdles that  implementing the rule would entail. Both the American Chemistry Council and the National Association of Water Companies, a trade group representing investor-owned utilities, have voiced concerns, claiming that compliance with the rule will cost billions of dollars. The Agency is actively working with financial institutions to help utilities in vulnerable communities with limited resources comply with the rule and claims $9 billion is already earmarked for this purpose from bills approved by Congress since 2021.

Additional information can be found in EPA’s Proposal to Limit PFAS in Drinking Water Fact Sheet.

EPA Finds TCE as a Whole Chemical Substance an Unreasonable Risk to Human Health

Earlier this year, EPA announced the final revision to the risk determination for trichloroethylene (TCE) risk evaluation issued under the Toxic Substances Control Act (“TSCA”). EPA found that TCE presents unreasonable risks to the health of workers, occupational non-users, consumers, and bystanders. The risks identified include adverse human health effects unrelated to cancer, such as neurotoxicity and liver effects, from acute and chronic inhalation and dermal exposures to TCE and risks for cancer from chronic inhalation and dermal exposures to TCE. The revised risk determination supersedes the conditions of use (“COU”) specific “no unreasonable risk” determinations that the EPA previously issued in its 2020 TCE risk evaluation.

TCE is a volatile organic compound (“VOC”) used mostly in industrial and commercial processes. Consumer uses include cleaning and furniture care products, arts and crafts, spray coatings, and automotive care products like brake cleaners. EPA determined that 52 of the 54 COUs evaluated drive the unreasonable risk determination.

EPA states that it used the whole chemical risk determination approach for TCE because there are benchmark exceedances for multiple COUs spanning across most aspects of TCE’s life cycle, from manufacturing (including import), processing, commercial use, consumer use, and disposal for health of workers occupational non-users (workers nearby but not in direct contact with this chemical), consumers, and bystanders. EPA holds that this approach is appropriate because the health effects associated with TCE exposures are “severe and potentially irreversible,” including developmental toxicity, reproductive toxicity, liver toxicity, kidney toxicity, immunotoxicity, neurotoxicity, and cancer. EPA notes that the revised risk determination for TCE does not reflect an assumption that workers always and appropriately wear personal protective equipment (PPE). EPA states that as it moves forward with a risk management rulemaking for TCE, it will “strive for consistency with existing OSHA requirements or best industry practices when those measures would address the identified unreasonable risk.

Additionally, EPA stated it is conducting a screening-level approach to assess potential risks from the air and water pathways for several of the first 10 risk evaluation chemicals, including TCE. The goal of the screening approach is to evaluate the surface water, drinking water, and ambient air pathways for TCE that were excluded from the 2020 risk evaluation and to determine if there are risks that were unaccounted for in that risk evaluation. EPA expects to describe its findings regarding the chemical-specific application of this screening-level approach in its proposed risk management rule for TCE.