EPA to "Reset" TSCA Inventory

Date: Dec 18, 2008

On November 25, 2008, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released "Background Discussion Piece: EPA's TSCA Inventory Reset," a document that discusses the Agency's latest chemical management effort: resetting the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) Chemical Substance Inventory (Inventory). EPA hopes to create an online system through which persons could view the Inventory in its current state and select those chemicals they are manufacturing or importing. Any chemicals not selected will be removed from the Inventory and would require EPA review before being manufactured or imported in the future. EPA is accepting public comments on the proposed Inventory reset until January 23, 2009.

The TSCA Inventory.

TSCA requires EPA to compile and keep current a list of all the chemical substances that are produced in the U.S. This list is known as the TSCA Inventory. The Inventory is intended to reflect the chemicals that are in U.S. commerce. But with nearly 84,000 chemicals currently on the list, EPA believes that it is likely that many of them are no longer being manufactured or imported, making the list outdated and over-inclusive.

"Resetting" the Inventory.

EPA recently announced its plan to "reset" the Inventory to include only chemicals currently in commerce, and issued a working paper describing a proposal for the resetting process. The rulemaking would start with EPA's publishing a notice in the Federal Register describing the proposed process, inviting the public to test an online system for certifying chemicals on the Inventory, and requesting comments. After the comment period, EPA would publish another Federal Register notice describing the finalized reset process.

EPA would then place the current Inventory online, including the Chemical Abstracts (CA) Index names and Chemical Abstracts Service Registry Numbers (CASRNs) for non-confidential chemicals. For confidential chemicals, only generic chemical names and TSCA Accession Numbers would appear.

Once the Inventory is online, EPA would begin the certification period, a limited time during which persons could view the Inventory and select those chemicals they had manufactured or imported during a specific timeframe (likely three years before the certification period begins).

After the certification period ended, EPA would collect the online certifications and develop a new Inventory containing only those chemicals that had been selected. EPA would also make the new Inventory publicly available online and allow corrections to be made to the list. EPA would then remove from the Inventory those chemicals that were not certified through the online system. At that point, a chemical substance removed from the Inventory would be considered "new," and manufacturing or importing a "new" substance would require submission of a TSCA section 5 notice (Premanufacture Notice, Microbial Commercial Activity Notice, or Exemption Notice).

Alternatives to resetting the Inventory.

EPA is also considering the following alternatives to resetting the Inventory:

  1. EPA could require each manufacturer or importer to report to EPA all chemical substances manufactured or imported during a certain time period.

  2. EPA could place chemicals being manufactured or imported on a list of "active" substances, and place chemicals not being manufactured or imported on a list of "inactive" substances. EPA could then issue a Significant New Use Rule (SNUR) for chemicals on the "inactive" list, which would require a Significant New Use Notice (SNUN) before those chemicals can be manufactured or imported in the future (unless the activity is exempt).

When does EPA plan to reset the Inventory?

The EPA hopes to complete the reset by June 1, 2011.

Is anyone exempt from the reset process?

Yes, persons manufacturing chemicals not subject to the TSCA section 5(a) Premanufacture Notice (PMN) and Microbial Commercial Activity Notice (MCAN) reporting requirements.

What should the business community do about EPA's plan to reset the Inventory?

First, the public can submit comments to EPA about the Inventory reset until January 23, 2009. Although there will be an opportunity to submit comments on the reset process when EPA publishes the proposal in the Federal Register, submitting comments now could influence EPA's initial proposal and ensure that EPA is aware of industry concerns regarding the reset. Because the Agency envisions using the online certification system to periodically update the Inventory in the future, it is critical that industry makes its voice heard now.

EPA is also seeking comments about the following specific issues:

  1. How should EPA deal with chemicals that are only being processed in the U.S., and not manufactured or imported? Should EPA allow processors to separately certify their chemicals?

  2. Under the proposed reset process, EPA would ask persons to certify chemicals they have manufactured or imported during a specific, past time period, such as three years before the certification period begins. Should EPA allow "advance" certification where persons could certify chemicals they intend to manufacture or import within a specific time period in the future?

  3. If there are errors in the final reset Inventory, should EPA allow corrections to be made, and how? For example, if a manufacturer discovers that its chemical was mistakenly removed from the final reset Inventory, should EPA allow the manufacturer to correct the mistake within a limited time?

Members of the business community may also consider compiling an inventory of their chemical substances to ensure that their chemicals are listed correctly on the Inventory. Remember, if a chemical is removed from the Inventory, it must undergo EPA review before it can be manufactured or imported again. EPA could restrict manufacture or import of a chemical, or require submission of certain toxicity data before allowing it to be reintroduced into U.S. commerce.