EPA Considering Expanded TSCA CDR and TRI Reporting Requirements, Environmental Justice Analyses

The new 2021-2023 strategic plan of the U.S. EPA's Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics (OPPT) floats a series of potential expanded reporting requirements under the agency's Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) Chemical Data Reporting (CDR) and Environmental Protection and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) programs. The TRI and CDR programs are the most significant and wide-reaching chemical reporting programs administered by the agency and the source of much of the data EPA relies on to guide regulatory actions involving all of the agency's programmatic offices, including air, water, waste, pesticides and chemicals.

The internal EPA planning document (recently obtained and released by Inside EPA) includes a number of noteworthy changes under consideration, though lacks additional explanation or detail, including:

  • "Develop option for annual CDR reporting for priority chemicals": CDR currently requires manufacturers and importers of chemicals to report on-site production and downstream use and exposure information to EPA every four years. It is unclear whether the plan refers to (as some accounts have suggested) "optional" facility reporting on an annual basis or -- more likely in this author's view -- development of a rulemaking "option" for OPPT to establish mandatory annual CDR reporting for certain chemicals of high interest;
  • Expansion of TRI reporting to additional industry sectors, including, specifically, Natural Gas Processing;
  • Expanding the list of PFAS chemicals subject to TRI reporting; and
  • Enhanced CDR and TRI data analysis to support environmental justice (EJ) and TSCA chemical prioritization initiatives.
For OPPT, the CDR and TRI databases are critical sources of information for chemical risk evaluations, the pace of which is increasing substantially as EPA implements the aggressive chemical assessment mandates from the 2016 TSCA amendments. While annual reporting may make sense for certain chemicals/activities -- such as TRI, where environmental releases may vary on a year-to-year basis (e.g., due to one-time release events), the utility of annual CDR reporting is questionable, as production volumes and the downstream exposure patterns for most chemicals typically do not vary substantially for the large majority of reporting facilities. Balancing these factors will be critical in ensuring that any revised CDR rule does not simply result in repetitive "busy work" for most companies.

In keeping with the Biden Administration's focus on environmental justice, the plan alludes to a greater emphasis on utilizing the CDR/TRI data to identify underprivileged communities (e.g., "conduct TRI/EJ mapping projects") and the chemicals that pose heightened risks to those communities.

A copy of the OPPT strategic plan is available here.