On September 13, 2016, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) convened its second industry stakeholder meeting to discuss the development of a fees rule under the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act (Pub. L. No. 114-182, “new TSCA”); a copy of the presentation is available here. Under new Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) Section 26(b)(4)(E), EPA is required to solicit input in support of fees rulemaking. EPA convened its first stakeholder meeting on August 11, 2016. Comments submitted by the August 24, 2016, deadline are available in the docket. During its second meeting, EPA stated it would continue to consider input received by Friday, September 23, 2016; any additional comments should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. EPA states it intends to send its proposal to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) by mid-October 2016, and expects a proposed rule will be published by the second half of December 2016.
In anticipation of the second meeting, EPA shared its general observations as to a way forward for fee assessment under TSCA Sections 4, 5, 6, and 14 and some of EPA’s key take aways from the comments submitted to the docket. In its meeting presentation, EPA outlined its estimated annual costs by 2019 (i.e., once the Section 6 risk evaluation schedule is ramped up). While no specific fee proposals emerged from the meeting discussions, the following information was discussed, which provides some insight into EPA’s ongoing process:
- EPA’s projected annual cost for implementing TSCA Sections 4, 5, 6 and 14 includes both direct and indirect/overhead costs, with a 22.75 percent adjustment to cover overhead, consistent with EPA’s overall budget practice.
- In estimating the anticipated number of Section 5 submissions, EPA stated that based on industry comments regarding the effect of fees, it assumed a 30 percent reduction from recent years. EPA essentially stated that 30 percent is an educated guess, noting that Notices of Commencement (NOC) are only filed on approximately 50 percent of premanufacture notices (PMN).
- EPA stated that, consistent with industry’s comments, it most likely will not propose to charge separately for individual confidential business information (CBI) claims, but instead will incorporate that into overhead costs.
- EPA stated that it is implementing a time accounting system, which may support future refinements of its cost estimates; EPA is required to review its fee program every three years under TSCA Section 26(b)(4)(F).
- EPA stated that it is pursuing consultation with the Small Business Administration regarding revisiting the applicable definition of a small business concern. While clarifying that this is not a proposal, EPA noted that if the producer price index is applied to the small business concern definition in 40 C.F.R. § 700.43, the $40 million revenue cap in the definition would increase to $91 million. As reflected in the circulated spreadsheet, EPA plans to propose reduced fees for small businesses as required by TSCA Section 26(b)(4)(A). EPA also stated that approximately 14 percent of TSCA submissions are made by small businesses.
- Section 6 risk evaluation fees remain one of the greater uncertainties. During the September 13, 2016, meeting, suggestions were made that these fees should be assessed incrementally, perhaps tied to milestones, with a schedule that perhaps could allow tying the fees to actual costs. In response, EPA noted that OMB requirements preclude federal agencies from seeking fees in reimbursement for completed activities.
Based on its projected costs, EPA will seek to raise the $25 million annual maximum allowed by new TSCA. Regardless of how these costs are distributed among Sections 4, 5, and 6 (assuming EPA’s proposal does not separately charge for Section 14 activities), it is clear that the proposed rule will be a significant change from the $2,500 PMN fee in place since the 1980’s.