In 2016, President Obama signed the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act (the "Act"), which fundamentally changes certain aspects of the Toxic Substances Control Act ("TSCA"), a statute that gives the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ("EPA") broad authority to impose restrictions on the manufacture, processing, distribution, use or disposal of any chemical substance currently or proposed to be placed in commerce. In accordance with the Act, EPA recently proposed the following three rules, which are designed to promote more frequent, timely and systematic review and regulation of new and existing chemical substances and must be finalized by June 22, 2017.

  • The Risk Evaluation Rule: this rule will establish the process by which EPA will determine whether an existing chemical substance "presents an unreasonable risk of injury to health or the environment;"
  • The Prioritization Rule: this rule will allow EPA to divide the universe of existing chemicals into "high priority" substances that must undergo a risk evaluation to determine whether the substance may pose unreasonable risks, and "low priority" substances for which a risk evaluation is currently unwarranted; and
  • The Inventory Reset Rule: this will require manufacturers and importers to confirm by December 17, 2017, which chemicals currently on the TSCA chemical inventory remain active in commerce, even if they previously fulfilled their TSCA data reporting obligations.

In addition, at the end of 2016, EPA published a list of ten chemical substances that will undergo the first risk evaluations under the Act. EPA is required to publish the scopes of the risk evaluations for these substances in March 2017. Finally, EPA will continue in 2017 to pursue TSCA rules for existing chemicals that were already in progress at the time the Act was enacted. For example, in December 2016 and January 2017 EPA proposed to ban the use of trichloroethylene ("TCE") in aerosol degreasing, vapor degreasing and spot cleaning at dry cleaning facilities. In sum, it appears that EPA will be very active in 2017 with respect to chemical regulation under TSCA.