Toxics Law May Give Some Regulatory Relief

IPC was proud to see Bloomberg Government’s coverage of the newly reformed TSCA bill, which was signed into law on June 22. Fern Abrams, director of regulatory affairs and government relations for IPC, is mentioned in the article and offers insights on what this bill will mean for the manufacturing industry.

You can read the entire article below.

bloomberg

Toxics Law May Give Some Regulatory Relief

June 24, 2016 06:13PM ET | Bloomberg BNA

  •  Amended Toxic Substances Control Act mandates rulemaking process for byproducts.
  •  Car, engine and printed circuit board manufacturers may get some regulatory relief.
  •  Reduces disincentives for recycling.

June 24 (BNA) — Car, engine and printed circuit board manufacturers are among the companies that may get some regulatory relief from the newly amended chemicals law, according to industry officials.

The newly signed overhaul of the Toxic Substances Control Act, which President Obama signed into law June 22, would require the Environmental Protection Agency to determine whether TSCA’s reporting requirements should be reduced or altered for companies that recycle, reuse or reprocess inorganic byproducts.

The changes the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act (H.R. 2576) made to TSCA guarantee a regulatory process—not a regulatory outcome, Fern Abrams, director of regulatory affairs and government relations for IPC—Association Connecting Electronics Industries, told Bloomberg BNA in a June 16 interview. IPC represents companies throughout the electronics industry supply chain, including those that design and make printed circuit boards for machinery and computers.

The outcome of the mandated regulatory process, Abrams said, could be to make it easier for companies that make finished goods to recycle wastes with copper and other metals.

Focus on Recycling

Honda North America Inc., is hopeful that the EPA will alter the inorganic byproducts reporting requirements to allow its facilities to more easily meet the corporate objective of sending zero waste to landfills, a Honda official told Bloomberg BNA.

The complex process of determining which byproducts sent for recycling would be subject to toxics law reporting and which would not is a hurdle to achieving that goal, the Honda official said.

Rep. Bill Johnson (R-Ohio), who worked with sponsors of the Lautenberg Act to insert the byproducts provision, told Bloomberg BNA: “We must make certain that TSCA reporting requirements are encouraging industries to recycle byproducts when possible, not incentivizing them to be discarded in landfills.”

In an e-mail, Johnson said he learned from electronics industry representatives during the toxics law reform negotiations that the agency’s reporting requirements, which did not exist for the first 30 years of the law’s implementation, created a disincentive to recycling.

What’s Amended?

The newly amended law only has a small provision that addresses byproducts.

Under that provision, the administrator must conduct a negotiated rulemaking and propose a rule not later than 3 years after enactment. Negotiated rulemaking is a process in which federal agency representatives and affected parties work together to reach consensus on what can ultimately become a proposed rule, the Congressional Research Service said in a 2006 report.

The Lautenberg Act amended TSCA to say the proposed rule would limit reporting requirements of the Chemical Data Reporting rule, which the EPA issues under Section 8 of the toxics law. EPA’s rule will address manufacturers of inorganic byproducts “when such byproducts, whether by the byproduct manufacturer or by any other person, are subsequently recycled, reused or reprocessed,” according to the amended section of the toxics law.

The rule would not alter a recycler’s obligations to report to the EPA saleable material it generates from byproducts; that obligation remains, Abrams said.

Inorganic Byproduct Issues

Abrams said inorganic byproducts’ reporting requirements became an issue in 2002 when the EPA lifted the previous exemption it had provided for inorganic chemicals.

Metals, a form of inorganic chemicals that can be recycled, are the critical issue, she said. Copper is a common metal found in byproducts generated when printed circuit boards are made.

The problem, Abrams said, is that the EPA’s byproducts reporting requirements mean circuit board manufacturers have to know how the recycler is transforming the manufacturers’ rinse waters, spent etchants or other manufacturing leftovers into something the recycler will sell.

If the recycler uses heat or a physical process to separate metals from the byproducts to generate a saleable product, the manufacturer does not have to report byproduct production under the Chemical Data Reporting rule, she said.

If, however, the recycler uses a chemical reaction to recover metals from the electronic manufacturer’s byproducts, then the manufacturer is responsible for filing reporting information for the chemicals in its rinse waters and other byproducts, she said.

“A recycler’s processes are often proprietary and are in constant flux based on market conditions,” IPC said in background materials it provided Bloomberg BNA. Making manufacturers’ byproducts reporting obligations contingent on recyclers’ processes compromises data quality, IPC’s materials said.

Data quality is compromised, Abrams said, because manufacturers have to guess about the recycler’s operations.

The rulemaking process required under the amended TSCA should allow many aspects of the byproducts issue to be raised for public discussion and resolved, Abrams said.

One important issue is whether public health or environmental protection benefits by the byproducts’ data the agency gets from the reporting rule, she said.

The agency receives much of that information already through EPA reporting requirements mandated under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act and Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act, Abrams said.

Separate Challenge Remains

The changes made to TSCA will not address a separate challenge IPC members face, Abrams said.

The newly amended law addresses the byproducts provisions of Chemical Data Reporting rule obligations.

Companies with manufacturing processes that generate byproducts also may be subject to Section 5 of the toxics law, which addresses new chemicals.

If a recycler uses a chemical reaction, the byproduct that is fed into the recycler’s reaction is—according to EPA’s definition—a new chemical that must be listed on the TSCA inventory of chemicals in commerce, Abrams said.

The amended law does not require the EPA to address that obligation.

“If the byproducts are not listed on the inventory, recycling cannot lawfully occur,” IPC’s background materials said.

If, however, a manufacturers’ byproducts are not recycled but sent to a landfill, the byproducts are not subject to either the toxics law’s new chemicals or Chemical Data Reporting rule requirements, Abrams said.

The EPA’s interpretation of the new toxics law for byproducts discourages recycling, she said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Pat Rizzuto in Washington at prizzuto@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Larry Pearl at lpearl@bna.com

Reproduced with permission from Daily Report for Executives, 123 DER (Jun. 27, 2016). Copyright 2016 by The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. (800-372-1033) <http://www.bna.com&gt;

 

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