EPA seeking feedback on new logo for Design for Environment label.

July 16th, 2014

Yesterday, the EPA’s Design for the Environment (DfE) program announced two listening sessions to solicit public input as part of the process of redesigning the new logo for the voluntary product labeling program. Chemical-based products – like cleaning solutions and laundry detergents – bearing the DfE label must meet certain standards that exclude ingredients that have been identified as chemicals of concern. Four proposed design concepts for the new logo are posted online. EPA’s stated goals for the new logo are:

  • Better convey the scientific rigor of EPA’s product evaluation and the benefits to people and the environment with a label that is easier to display on products, materials, and in digital media;
  • Increase buyers’ recognition of products bearing EPA’s Safer Product Label; and
  • Encourage innovation and development of safer chemicals and chemical-based products.

E&E News reports that industry groups are concerned with the logo redesign, quoting American Chemistry Council president Cal Dooley at a conference earlier this year calling the DfE program “unprecedented” in terms of the label’s “potential for significant market implications.” Dooley also expressed doubt that DfE met the Federal Trade Commission’s Green Guides guidelines for private labeling programs.

EPA’s listening sessions will be held as webinars on August 4 and 5, 2014, from 1pm to 2pm Eastern Time; participants must register no later than August 1. Comments are also accepted on the DfE label website. According to the Federal [Read the full article...]

House holds hearing on Constitutional issues with focus on TSCA reform.

July 14th, 2014

Last Friday, the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Environment and the Economy heard testimony from legal experts on whether the Constitution’s Commerce Clause requires the preemption of state laws that are more stringent than federal ones. The hearing, titled “Constitutional Considerations: States vs. Federal Environmental Policy Implementation,” considered the scope and limitations of federalism in environmental policy generally. Witnesses and subcommittee members alike addressed the preemption concerns in the context of Congress’ recent attempts at modernizing the Toxic Substances Control Act (“TSCA”), along with other issues, including the regulation of fracking. The witnesses testified on how federal environmental laws are grounded in the Constitution and run the gamut in terms of preemption and cooperative federalism. In particular, in a back-and-forth with Rep. Paul Tonko (D-NY), Professor Rena Steinzor of the University of Maryland School of Law characterized the broad federal preemption of state regulatory programs as “unwise” as well as not required under the Constitution. Prof. Steinzor also stated that the preemption schemes in current TSCA reform proposals did not comport with the principles of cooperative federalism.

Background material and prepared testimony from the witnesses is available here; a video of the hearing is available on YouTube.

EPA issues two sets of SNURs by direct final rule.

July 8th, 2014

Today, EPA released a pre-publication version of Significant New Use Rules (SNURs) for 43 chemicals under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). All 43 substances have been subject to Premanufacture Notices (PMNs) and six of them are subject to section 5(e) consent orders, where EPA determined that activities associated with the substances may present unreasonable risk to human health or the environment. The SNURs are being promulgated by direct final rule and will be published in the Federal Register tomorrow, July 9.

The new SNURs cover a wide range of chemicals, including perfluorinated chemicals and lithium salts, in a variety of industrial uses, from herbicide intermediates to surfactants for laboratory use fluid.The SNURs impose various recordkeeping, notification, protective and other requirements on persons engaging in a “significant new use,” i.e., any use outside the use scenarios identified in the applicable PMNs or without specified protective measures, in the case of the 5(e) SNURs.

These 43 SNURs come a day after another set of 13 SNURs which were published in today’s Federal Register, all of which were subject to PMNs and three of which were subject to section 5(e) consent orders. Two of the substances covered in this set of SNURs are identified as carbon nanotubes.

The SNURs applying to the substances subject to section 5(e) consent orders are “based on and consistent with the provisions in the underlying consent orders.” The other substances subject to the new SNURs [Read the full article...]

EPA recognizes industry leaders using safer chemicals, reiterates need for TSCA reform.

June 24th, 2014

Making products with safer chemicals meets consumer demand while improving companies’ bottom lines and benefiting human health and the environment at the same time, says EPA Assistant Administrator for Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention Jim Jones. Today, Jones wrote on the agency’s “EPA Connect” blog to highlight several U.S. companies leading in the area of safer chemicals in consumer products, including as partners in EPA’s Design for Environment (DfE) program. Jones lauded these product makers and retailers for “advancing industry beyond the safety ‘floor’ set by the outdated Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).”

Acknowledging that the absence of a DfE label does not necessarily mean a product is unsafe, Jones points out that the DfE label promotes supply chain transparency: “With the DfE label, you know what is going into a product and that the formula is the safest for human health and the environment based on the best available science and protective criteria—above and beyond the minimum legal requirements set by existing TSCA.”

Jones’ focus on the need to update TSCA, which has been the subject of significant legislative activity this session, is consistent with his previous public statements. In today’s post, he pledged EPA’s continuing commitment to its DfE partners regardless of the outcome of the current TSCA reform effort.

New proposed rule on TSCA CBI claims expected in fall 2014.

June 20th, 2014

EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention (OCSPP) will release its long-awaited proposed rule under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) regarding Confidential Business Information (CBI) by September 30 this year. Chemical Watch has flagged a recently released Office of Inspector General (OIG) report [PDF] that compiles and provides status updates on the many OIG recommendations that EPA has not yet implemented. The semiannual report includes recommendations stemming from a 2010 OIG report on EPA’s New Chemicals Program which found that the agency “does not have integrated procedures and measures in place to ensure that new chemicals entering commerce do not pose an unreasonable risk to human health and the environment.”

Specifically, OIG advised that OCSPP develop a “more detailed [TSCA CBI] classification guide that provides criteria for approving CBI coverage and establishes a time limit for all” CBI claims in order to permit “eventual” public access to chemical health and safety data. EPA originally agreed to implement OIG’s recommendation by proposing a rule establishing sunset provisions for CBI claims by January 31, 2012. According to the report, OCSPP informed OIG in January 2013 that the rule would be delayed because “senior management discussions” led to the decision to make a “more complex and comprehensive rule.” Last fall, the regulatory agenda released by the Office of Management and Budget CBI pegged the rule’s release for this spring.

In addition to the CBI rule, the OIG’s 2010 [Read the full article...]

CA’s Green Ribbon Science Panel to discuss approaches to product category identification under Safer Consumer Products program.

June 19th, 2014

California’s Green Ribbon Science Panel invites members of the public to join its webinar and conference call on June 25, at 9 a.m., to discuss how the Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) should identify product categories in its forthcoming 3-Year Priority Product Work Plan for the Safer Consumer Products (SCP) program. As we have previously discussed, DTSC has said a public workshop will be held on the Work Plan this summer; the Plan is expected to be finalized by October 1, 2014.

In preparation for the June 25 webinar, DTSC has posted online a background memo [PDF] discussing various approaches for product category identification and posing questions to the Panel soliciting recommendations. The approaches identified in the memo are:

  • Hazard Trait and Endpoint Screening
  • Route of Exposure
  • Chemical Prioritization
  • Evidence of Exposure
  • Sensitive Subpopulation Prioritization
  • Nomination Process

According to the agenda [PDF], the webinar will also include an update from DTSC staff on the SCP program and the status of the Work Plan. In addition, staff will accept comments from the public on agenda items. Specifics on how to participate in the webinar are available here.

REACH Candidate List updated with four new Substances of Very High Concern.

June 17th, 2014

The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) has announced the addition of four new Substances of Very High Concern (SVHCs) to the Candidate List: cadmium chloride, a phthalate (1,2-benzenedicarboxylic acid, dihexyl ester, branched and linear), and two boron substances (sodium peroxometaborate and sodium perborate; perboric acid, sodium salt). This addition brings the Candidate List to a current total of 155 substances.

ECHA identified cadmium chloride as a carcinogenic, mutagenic, and toxic for reproduction (CMR) substance, as well as “being of an equivalent concern based on probable serious effects to human health,” with specific focus on effects to the kidneys and bones. The other three substances are identified as toxic for reproduction.

One of the boron substances was added directly to the Candidate List by ECHA because no relevant comments regarding its identification as an SVHC were submitted during public consultation. The Member State Committee (MSC) added the other three substances via unanimous agreement in written procedure regarding their identification as SVHCs. The addition of cadmium chloride and the borate substances to the Candidate List were proposed in March by Sweden and Denmark, respectively.

The addition of these substances to the Candidate List marks a first step towards the substances possibly becoming subject to authorization under REACH. Inclusion in the Candidate List triggers certain notification obligations for manufacturers or importers of the substances, including when they are present in mixtures or articles.

EPA identifies safer alternatives for flame retardants.

June 13th, 2014

Yesterday, EPA’s Design for Environment (DfE) program released two reports on flame retardants and their safer alternatives. One report is a draft update of a 2005 Alternatives Assessment on the flame retardant pentabromodiphenyl ether (pentaBDE) in flexible polyurethane foam; the other is a final Alternatives Assessment on Hexabromocyclododecane (HBCD), a brominated flame retardant used in polystyrene building insulation. Both chemicals pose risks to human health and the environment, including “potential reproductive, developmental, and neurological effects and can be persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic to aquatic organisms.”

PentaBDE has already been phased out of use in the U.S.; in 2004, industry voluntarily agreed to cease production and EPA issued a Significant New Use Rule (SNUR) aimed at ending the chemical’s domestic manufacture. EPA proposed another SNUR in 2012 to address imports of pentaBDE-containing furniture or other articles. EPA identified oligomeric phosphonate polyol as a safer alternative to pentaBDE….. PentaBDE has also been subject to flammability standards recently proposed and finalized by the Consumer Product Safety Commission and the state of California, respectively. EPA’s updated alternatives assessment is “[complementary to] the CPSC and California actions by providing important information for informed selection of flame retardants in the manufacture of home and office furniture, as well as the many home products not covered by these standards.” The draft update provides a hazard assessment for flame retardant chemicals used in upholstered consumer products containing polyurethane foam, including updated health and environmental profiles [Read the full article...]

Industry criticizes House Democrats’ TSCA proposal and refocuses on Senate bill.

June 12th, 2014

A week after the release of House Democrats’ proposed revisions to the Chemicals in Commerce Act (CICA), industry groups have responded with criticism and a renewed interest in the Senate’s Chemical Safety Improvement Act (CSIA), the stalled legislation that also aims to modernize the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). Meanwhile, the attorneys general of ten states have also expressed their support for the CSIA in a letter to Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and David Vitter (R-LA), the Chairwoman and Ranking Member, respectively, of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

In contrast to the April letter from 13 Democratic attorneys general opposing CICA, the pro-CSIA letter is at least nominally bipartisan: all of the signers are Republicans except for Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel. The letter tackles Democrats’ preemption concerns head-on by praising CSIA as balancing “States’ needs to protect the health of their citizens and resources with the need to create a coherent and cohesive regulatory framework for chemical manufacturers.” The AGs also write that the Senate bill “gives States direct routes to participate in the process of identifying and evaluating chemical safety, including requests to prioritize specific chemicals and to re-prioritize a chemical based on new information.” The preemption provisions in both bills have been a point of major contention, particularly with Sen. Boxer, who has stated that any TSCA reform that fails to preserve state laws like California’s Proposition 65 is [Read the full article...]

House Democrats’ negotiating language on TSCA reform: user fees and tighter deadlines.

June 4th, 2014

Democrats on the House Subcommittee on Environment and the Economy have proposed a revised version [PDF] of the Chemicals in Commerce Act (CICA), the bill which Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL) first introduced in April to modernize the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). However, spokespeople from both sides of the aisle expressed that continued bipartisan work was still needed. A spokesperson for Rep. Paul Tonko (D-NY) told Chemical Watch that Democrats have “not heard back on the legislative language” they proposed, while Rep. Shimkus’ office said that the Congressman’s “door remains open to any serious attempts to find common ground and move bipartisan TSCA reform through the House this year.” The Democrats’ negotiating language, presented as a redlined version of CICA, proposes user fees that would be assessed on chemical manufacturers and processors and shortens deadlines. According to Bloomberg BNA, Republican committee aides called the Democratic proposal a nonstarter.

Meanwhile, there have been no reported updates on progress toward a new version of the Chemical Safety Improvement Act (CSIA) on the Senate side.

Comments from industry and NGO stakeholders reflect tempered hopes for the prospect of passing TSCA reform this year. The American Chemistry Council (ACC) stated that, “With good-faith efforts from the Committee Democrats to develop a workable consensus, we believe there may still be opportunities to pass meaningful reform this year,” while Bill Almond, Vice President of Government Relations of the Society of Chemical Manufacturers and [Read the full article...]