On January 19, 2017, EPA issued a number of proposed rules that would regulate the manufacturing, processing, distribution in commerce, and use of Trichloroethylene (“TCE”), methylene chloride—also called dichloromethane—and N-methylpyrrolidone (“NMP”). The proposed rules are part of EPA’s ongoing efforts to regulate chemical substances pursuant to the Toxic Substances Control Act (“TSCA”). Specifically, EPA has proposed a rule that would, among other things, prohibit the manufacturing (including import), processing, and distribution in commerce of TCE for vapor degreasing. The rule augments EPA’s recently proposed rule that prohibits commercial use of TCE in spot cleaning in dry cleaning facilities, which we reported on. Additionally, EPA has a proposed a rule that would prohibit the manufacturing (including import), processing, distribution in commerce, and use of methylene chloride for consumer and most types of commercial paint and coating removal; and has co-proposed a rule that would prohibit the manufacturing (including import), processing, distribution in commerce and use of NMP for all consumer and commercial paint and coating removal, or a reformulation, protection, and labeling approach toward NMP.

TCE

Vapor degreasing is a cleaning process that uses a solvent vapor to remove contaminants such as grease, oils, dust, and dirt from fabricated parts. Solvents, such as TCE, are boiled in a degreasing unit to produce a hot vapor. EPA estimates there are up to 6,000 degreasing systems currently using TCE, exposing up to 106,000 workers to TCE. As noted above, the January 19, 2017 proposed rule would prohibit the manufacturing, processing, and distribution in commerce of TCE for this activity. The general prohibition on the manufacturing, processing, and distribution in commerce of TCE in vapor degreasing becomes effective 18 months after publication of the final rule, while the specific prohibition on the commercial use of TCE in vapor degreasing, which is considered processing, becomes effective two years after publication of the final rule. Comments on the proposed TCE rule, which can be found here, must be received on or before February 14, 2017.

Methylene Chloride

Similar to TCE, EPA has proposed a rule to prohibit the manufacturing, processing, distribution in commerce, and use of methylene chloride for consumer and most types of commercial paint and coating removal. The proposed rule would grant a limited exemption for specific military uses for which methylene chloride is essential for paint and coating removal. Additionally, the proposed rule requires the downstream notification of the prohibition on manufacturing, processing, and distribution of methylene chloride for paint and coating removal, and limited recordkeeping. EPA estimates that 32,600 workers and 1.3 million consumers annually are exposed to methylene chloride during paint and coating removal activities.

Further, EPA indicated that it intends to issue a separate proposal on methylene chloride in paint and coating removal in commercial furniture refinishing, but plans to issue one final rule covering both this proposal and the future proposed rule on methylene chloride in paint and coating removal in commercial furniture refinishing.

The general prohibition on the manufacturing, processing, distribution in commerce, and consumer use of methylene chloride for paint and coating removal becomes effective 180 calendar days after publication of the final rule, while the specific prohibition on commercial use of methylene chloride for paint and coating removal, which is considered processing, becomes effective 270 calendar days after publication of the final rule. Comments on the methylene chloride proposed rule, which can be found here, must be submitted to EPA on or before April 19, 2017.

NMP

Uses of NMP include many of the same uses stated above for methylene chloride. Consumer use of NMP in paint and coating removal is similar to commercial use, and consumer products containing NMP are the same as those used in many commercial settings. EPA has estimated that approximately 30,000 workers and 732,000 consumers annually are exposed to NMP during paint and coating removal activities.

As stated above, EPA has co-proposed two approaches to regulating NMP. Under one approach, similar to the approaches to TCE and methylene chloride, EPA proposes to prohibit the manufacturing, processing, and distribution in commerce of NMP for consumer and commercial paint and coating removal; require manufacturers, processors, and distributors of NMP to provide downstream notification of the prohibitions; and require recordkeeping relevant to these prohibitions. The proposed rule would grant an exemption for specific military uses for which there are no technically feasible alternatives currently available. The prohibition on the manufacturing, processing, and distribution in commerce of NMP for consumer use for paint and coating removal would take effect 180 days after publication of the final rule, and the prohibition on the manufacturing, processing, and distribution in commerce of NMP for commercial use would take effect 270 days after publication of the final rule.

Alternatively, EPA proposes NMP product reformulation, glove testing, labeling, and worker protection, rather than outright prohibition. Specifically, the rule proposes to (1) reformulate products to not exceed a maximum of 35 percent NMP by weight; (2) test gloves to identify specialized materials that provide protection for users of the reformulated product; (3) label products with information for consumers, and provide information for commercial users about reducing risks when using the products; and (4) establish a worker protection program for those using NMP in commercial settings. Most of the requirements in the proposed rule are to take effect 180 calendar days after publication of the final rule if this alternate approach is ultimately proposed. Comments on either of the NMP rule alternatives, which can be found here, must be received by April 19, 2017.