December 7, 2023

Washington Wire: EPA Releases Trichloroethylene Proposal



EPA Releases Trichloroethylene Proposal
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has published a proposed rule regulating trichloroethylene (TCE) under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). The proposed rule would effectively ban TCE by prohibiting the manufacture or import, processing, and distribution in commerce of TCE for all uses including as a solvent in industrial cleaning and degreasing.
The proposed rule would phase out most uses of TCE within one year while a small set of critical uses would be subject to longer compliance timeframes and workplace controls. These uses include the use by Federal agencies in making rocket booster nozzles, battery separator manufacturing, and the “critical” degreasing of military vehicles.
For the limited continued use, the proposed rule would require a workplace chemical protection program (WCPP) including inhalation exposure monitoring and limits, dermal protection, recordkeeping, and downstream notification requirements. 
The TCE proposal is EPA's fourth under TSCA for a halogenated solvent this year, following methylene chloride, perchloroethylene (PCE), and carbon tetrachloride (CTC). EPA will accept comments from the public ahead of finalizing the rule.

EPA Issues PFAS Reporting Rule
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has released a final Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) rule which would expand the reporting requirements for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). The “Changes to Reporting Requirements for Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances [(PFAS)] and to Supplier Notifications for Chemicals of Special Concern; Community Right-to-Know Toxic Chemical Release Reporting” rule was announced by the EPA on October 20, 2023.
Under TRI reporting, facilities are required to report annually on covered PFAS if they manufacture, process, or otherwise use more than 100 pounds of the substance. 
The rule designates PFAS as chemicals of special concern (CSC) for TRI-reporting purposes which eliminates a Trump-era reporting exemption for de minimis amounts of TRI-listed PFAS. The final rule also makes the de minimis exemption unavailable for purposes of supplier notification requirements to downstream facilities for all chemicals deemed CSC, beyond just PFAS, such as lead, mercury, and dioxins. The new requirements under the rule will apply for the reporting year beginning Jan. 1, 2024.
This is separate from the new requirement from the EPA under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) “requiring any person that manufactures (including import) or has manufactured (including imported) PFAS or PFAS-containing articles in any year since January 1, 2011, to electronically report information regarding PFAS uses, production volumes, disposal, exposures, and hazards.” Companies have until November 2024 to file the one-time report for each year dating back to 2011.


Timeline for U.S.-EU Steel & Aluminum Agreement Extended
The United States and European Union have formally extended the timeline for reaching an agreement on a steel and aluminum deal, known as the Global Arrangement on Sustainable Steel and Aluminum, which was expected to be finalized this month. The two sides have now set an end-of-year deadline for the talks. 
The Global Arrangement, a collaborative effort initiated by the U.S. and the EU in October 2021, is focused on addressing concerns related to carbon intensity and global overcapacity. It also aims to discourage the trade of steel and aluminum products with high emissions. As part of the ongoing negotiations, the U.S. submitted a concept paper to the EU in December 2022, proposing the establishment of a green steel club with defined "emissions intensity" standards for steel and aluminum production. The proposal also included the possibility of implementing carbon-based tariffs for products that exceed these standards.
While the U.S. suspended the 232 steel and aluminum tariffs on EU imports on the condition of reaching an agreement, the U.S. has indicated that it will not reimpose those tariffs on the EU at the end of the year even if the sides cannot agree. 


EEO-1 Filing Period to Begin October 31
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently announced that the collection window for 2022 data will now be open from Tuesday, October 31, 2023, to Tuesday, December 5, 2023.
Filing of the 2022 EEO-1 forms, which report demographic data to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), had previously been delayed from mid-July. According to the EEOC, the delay was due to a mandatory, three-year renewal of the EEO-1 Component 1 data collection by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) under the Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA).
The EEO-1 is an annual survey requiring all private employers with 100 or more employees and federal government contractors or first-tier subcontractors with 50 or more employees and a federal contract, sub-contract, or purchase order amounting to $50,000 or more to file the EEO-1 report which summarizes employee headcount by sex, race/ethnicity, and job category.


House Democrats Introduce WOTUS Bill
Democrats on the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee have introduced legislation that would restore federal protections to waters and wetlands excluded from the definition of “waters of the United States” (WOTUS) by the Supreme Court’s Sackett v. EPA decision.
Reps. Rick Larsen (D-WA), ranking member on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee; Grace Napolitano (D-CA), ranking member of the Transportation and Infrastructure Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee; Don Beyer (D-VA); Melanie Stansbury (D-NM), and 114 additional House Democrats introduced the bill on October 18, 2023.
The Clean Water Act of 2023, H.R. 5983, would replace the term “navigable waters” in the Clean Water Act (CWA) with “protected water resources,” which is defined in the bill as “all waters subject to the ebb and flow of the tide, the territorial seas, and all interstate and intrastate waters (and their tributaries), including lakes, rivers, streams (including intermittent and ephemeral streams), wetlands, and all impoundments of the foregoing, to the fullest extent that these waters are subject to the legislative power of Congress under the Constitution.” 
The legislation codifies all existing permitting exemptions, such as for agriculture, mining, and construction-related activities, as well as waste treatment systems, and would require EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers to regularly review the CWA exemptions “using science-based evidence, to ensure the protection of water quality, human health, and the environment.”
While the legislation will not move forward in the House during the current Congress, Democrats are making their pitch if they take control of the U.S. House for a “congressional fix” to the Supreme Court decision by providing what they believe is a clear definition of WOTUS.