What’s Happening at the EPA: TCE Assessment, EPCRA Anniversary, New Enforcement Map, Chemical Data Reporting Rule

The EPA has been busy since we last checked in with the agency. Here are some of the most news worthy items out of the EPA in the last few months, including a final assessment for trichloroethylene and an important new rule for chemical manufacturers on reporting chemical information.

10/17 EPA Marks 25th Anniversary of EPCRA – EPCRA stands for the Emergency Planning and Community Right-To-Know Act, otherwise known as SARA Title III. It’s part of the Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act of 1986 and specifies responsibilities and reporting obligations for facilities with hazardous chemicals. It was enacted following a deadly chemical release in Bhopal, India that killed thousands. Obligations under EPCRA include: Tier1 / Tier II reporting, notifying local and state emergency response agencies of presence of chemicals, especially Extremely Hazardous Substances (EHS), and providing MSDSs to those same local and state agencies. The law is also behind the Toxic Release Inventory program (TRI) which collects information on toxic releases.

9/28 EPA Releases Final Health Assessment for TCE – TCE or trichloroethylene has long been on the EPA radar. For over 20 years the agency has labored on a health assessment for TCE – a chlorinated industrial solvent. According to its announcement, the EPA assessment “characterizes the chemical as carcinogenic to humans and as a human noncancer health hazard.” The EPA says TCE is commonly found in Superfund clean-up sites and the agency has concerns about the TCE’s movement via contaminated ground water and soil into the air of overlaying buildings.

9/30 EPA Launches New Mapping Tool to Improve Public Access to Enforcement Information – Similar to the new map debuted by the Department of Labor that shows enforcement activity for agencies like OSHA, the new EPA map allows users to view EPA action on a national, state and local level. Users can see detailed information on specific companies, its violations and the enforcement actions taken. The map is a great reminder that the consequences of an EPA violation can include damage to a company’s reputation and standing in the community. With the Internet, the white hot spotlight is always on.

8/2 EPA Publishes Rule to Improve Reporting of Chemical Information – In August, as reported in MSDSonline’s newsletter, the EPA published the Chemical Data Reporting (CDR) final rule that increases the type and amount of information it collects from commercial chemical manufacturers. The CDR rule also demands upfront and more detailed substantiation of confidentiality claims made by companies and requires that they submit mandatory chemical data electronically, using the EPA’s new online e-CDRweb tool, rather than on paper.

EPA feels electronic report submissions will improve both data quality and the agency’s ability to use it, while also making it more accessible to the public. The Agency uses CDR data to evaluate and address human and environmental exposures to reported chemicals.

Manufacturers, including importers, must adhere to the new CDR requirements beginning with the next submitting period, which is Feb. 1, 2012 to June 30, 2012.

In the EPA announcement, Steve Owens, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention said, “The new electronic reporting requirement and limits on confidentiality claims also will bring EPA’s data collection effort into the 21st Century and give the American people greater access to a wider range of information on chemicals to which their children and families are exposed every day.”

The Changes
According to the Agency, “The changes are part of EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson’s commitment to strengthen the agency’s chemical management program and increase the transparency of critical information on chemicals.” The CDR rule amends and renames section 8(a) of the Toxics Substances Control Act (TSCA), formerly the Inventory Update Reporting (IUR) rule.

Some of the Changes with the New CDR Rule Include:

  • More frequent reporting of critical chemical information; now required every 4 years instead of 5
  • Online data submissions are required – no more paper
  • Inorganic chemicals are no longer exempt
  • Water is fully exempt, both naturally occurring and manufactured
  • All polymers are fully exempt – three polymers were removed from partially exempt list
  • Upfront substantiation is required for CBI (classified business information) claims
  • Confidentiality claims for processing and use data elements identified as not “known to or reasonably ascertainable by” are disallowed
  • Reporting threshold changes, including the phase-in of a lower threshold to replace the 300,000lb reporting threshold (requirement for Part III of Form U)

For more information about the new CDR rule, visit the EPA’s website.

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