Industry organizations complained this week that a rule proposed recently by the Environmental Protection Agency could inappropriately subject some chlorinated paraffins and other chemicals to new regulations.
The Independent Lubricant Manufacturers Association, theAmerican Chemistry Council, the Chlorinated Paraffin Industry Association and others submitted comments to EPA Monday objecting to a regulation published last month that would classify the manufacture and import of medium- and long-chained chlorinated paraffins as new uses under the federal Toxic Substances Control Act. The implications of such classification were not spelled out, but it could require suppliers to provide health and safety test data or subject their operations to a level of scrutiny/other requirements not currently faced.
Monday was the deadline for comments about the August rule, and a total of 13 organizations or individuals submitted some. Because some oppose the rule, EPA must review them and decide whether to keep it, modify it or issue a new one. In other cases that process has taken months or years.
The new regulation, referred to as a significant new use rule, was an unwelcome surprise for industry groups that were enthused last year when the agency, under the direction of President Donald J. Trump, reversed a plan formed by predecessor Barack Obamas administration to ban the use of medium- and long-chained chlorinated paraffins. Instead of following through on that plan, in July 2017 EPA issued consent decrees specifically authorizing three companies to produce or import chlorinated paraffins for five years.
We were expecting the SNURs to be consistent with the consent order language, and we feel that is not what happened, CPIA Manager Andrew Jaques told Lube Report yesterday.
EPA officials were unable to respond by deadline.
Chlorinated paraffins are chlorinated alkanes that have carbon chain lengths ranging from 10 to 38, with varying degrees of chlorination. Medium-chain chlorinated paraffins range from 14 to 17 carbon molecules, long-chain varieties from 18 to 20, and very-long-chain paraffins have 21 or more. Chlorinated paraffins are used in metalworking fluids as extreme-pressure agents in drawing, forming and metal removal operations.
The direct rule that EPA issued in August applies to 27 types of chemicals. The agency cited Section 5(a)(2) of the TSCA as its authorization for classifying the chemicals as significant new uses. ILMA and ACC contended that the agency should instead be guided by Section 6 of the act. This would allow the agency to designate medium- and long-chain chlorinated paraffins as high-priority substances and then to conduct risk assessments of them.
ILMA Executive Director Holly Alfano called it nonsense to classify the lubricant industrys use of chlorinated paraffins as new, noting that the industry has used the chemicals for decades. EPA is acting outside its authority under the TSCA, she said in the comments submitted to EPA.
ILMA and ACC cited previous EPA regulations on chlorinated paraffins dating to 2012, arguing that the use of chlorinated paraffins should be considered ongoing and not new.
The fight over chlorinated paraffins goes back at least to 2009, when the EPA brought enforcement actions against Dover and Inovyn – the two largest suppliers of chlorinated paraffins in the U.S. – for selling short-, medium- and long-chain varieties, alleging that they were not properly listed under TSCA. Three years later the parties reached a settlement allowing the companies to sign pre-manufacture notices and continue shipping medium- and long-chain paraffins.
In January 2015, the EPA advised suppliers that it had completed a draft risk assessment of the chemicals and intended to order a halt to production of them by May 2016. After meetings with industry groups, the agency postponed the ban until mid-2017.
After Trump took office, his administration decided to instead review medium- and long-chain chlorinated paraffins as existing rather than new chemicals under TSCA, leading to the issuance of consent orders in July 2017 for Dover, Inovyn and Qualice.
Once the five-year period on the consent orders ends, the EPA can do a number of things, including eliminating the SNUR and other restrictions or introducing new SNURs and regulations. Jaques noted, I think a lot is going to happen with chlorinated paraffins over the next four to ten years as we work to develop the data, review it with EPA and work with them on any resulting new regulations based on that review.
The U.S. is a relatively small manufacturer and consumer of chlorinated paraffins compared to the global market. China and India rank first and second, respectively, in both manufacturing and consumption. Whatever the EPA does will not change the global situation that much, Jaques said. Even if the EPA restricts chlorinated paraffins production, there will likely still be a lot of chlorinated paraffin containing articles imported to the U.S.