EPA Announces Collaborative Research Program to Support New Chemical Reviews

February 28, 2022
The EPA recently announced a new effort under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) to modernize the process and bring innovative science to the review of new chemicals before they can enter the marketplace.
Through this effort, the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention (OCSPP) is proposing to develop and implement a multi-year collaborative research program in partnership with the Agency’s Office of Research and Development (ORD) and other federal entities focused on approaches for performing risk assessments on new chemical substances under TSCA. The results of the effort are expected to bring innovative science to new chemical reviews, modernize the approaches used, and increase the transparency of the human health and ecological risk assessment process.
“Science is the backbone of our chemical safety work, and strong science ensures we put measures in place to protect human health and the environment, when necessary,” said Assistant Administrator for the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention Michal Freedhoff. “This exciting and collaborative effort announced today will modernize the processes and bring innovative science into the evaluation of new chemicals under TSCA, leading to a more sustainable program.”
“This collaborative effort between OCSPP and ORD will draw on ORD’s innovative science, expertise, and leadership in relevant areas such as high-throughput testing, computational toxicology and exposure approaches, and development of databases and tools to make data accessible and informative for chemical assessments. Work on this collaborative effort furthers ORD’s commitment to translating research into application and is complementary to efforts on EPA’s New Approach Methods Work Plan,” said Deputy Assistant Administrator for Science Policy in the Office of Research and Development Chris Frey.
EPA is holding a virtual public meeting on April 20 and 21, 2022, from 1:00 PM to approximately 5:00 PM (EDT) to provide an overview of the TSCA New Chemicals Collaborative Research Program and give individual stakeholders an opportunity to provide input.
Prior to the public meeting, EPA will release a draft document describing this collaborative research program for a 60-day public comment period. Following the public meeting, EPA intends to update the draft document as appropriate and will place the updated document in the docket. Later in 2022, the Agency plans to release a revised version of the collaborative research plan for an additional public comment period and peer review by the Board of Scientific Counselors (BOSC).
This multi-year research program will refine existing approaches and develop and implement new approach methodologies (NAMs) to ensure the best available science is used in TSCA new chemical evaluations. Key areas proposed in the TSCA New Chemicals Collaborative Research Program include:
  • Updating OCSPP’s approach using data from structurally similar chemicals to determine potential risks from new chemicals, also known as read-across. This will increase the efficiency of new chemical reviews promoting the use of the best available data to protect human health and the environment.
  • Digitizing and consolidating information on chemicals to include data and studies that currently only exist in hard copy or in disparate TSCA databases. The information will be combined with publicly available sources to expand the amount of information available, enhancing chemical reviews and enabling efficient sharing of chemical information across EPA. Safeguards for confidential business information will be maintained as appropriate in this process.
  • Updating and augmenting the models used for predicting a chemical’s physical-chemical properties and environmental fate/transport, hazard, exposure, and toxicokinetics to provide a suite of models to be used for new chemicals assessments. The goal of this effort is to update the models to reflect the best available science, increase transparency, and establish a process for updating these models as science evolves.
  • Exploring ways to integrate and apply NAMs in new chemicals assessments, reducing the use of animal testing. As this effort evolves, the goal is to develop a suite of accepted, fit-for-purpose NAMs that could be used by external stakeholders for data submissions under TSCA as well as informing and expanding new chemical categories.
  • Developing a decision support tool that integrates the various information streams specifically used for new chemical risk assessments. The decision support tool will more efficiently integrate all the data streams (e.g., chemistry, fate, exposures, hazards) into a final risk assessment and transparently document the decisions and assumptions made. Simply put, this will facilitate the new chemicals program tracking decisions over time and evaluating consistency within and across chemistries.
New OSHA Resources Span Topics from Asbestos in Schools to Ventilation
New resources published recently by OSHA include an alert focused on improving workplace ventilation during cold weather (PDF) and a fact sheet that outlines whistleblower protections for workers who are concerned about asbestos in schools (PDF). The alert on ventilation describes steps that building managers can take to improve indoor air quality—ensuring air intake and exhaust ports are free of ice or snow and replacing filters as necessary, for example—versus maintenance that should be conducted by a qualified heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) professional. The fact sheet on whistleblower protections discusses covered entities and protected activities under the Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act, which is intended to protect employees from retaliation for reporting potential asbestos violations in schools.
A Spanish version of OSHA’s Recommended Practices for Safety and Health Programs (PDF) and two new publications focused on the maritime industry are among other new resources from the agency. OSHA’s recommended practices are intended to help employers establish a methodical approach to implementing safety and health programs in their workplaces. The two new resources for the maritime industry include a fact sheet focused on hazards associated with preservative coatings during hot work on vessels (PDF) and a one-pager about workplace safety in marine terminal mechanic shops (PDF).
These and other new items published by OSHA can be found on the agency’s publications webpage.
Continuing to Ignore Workplace Safety Leads to $1M in Penalties
A series of federal workplace safety and health inspections at four Dollar General stores in Alabama and Georgia in the summer of 2021 found the nationwide discount retailer's long history of exposing employees to dangerous working conditions continues.
Since 2016, OSHA has proposed more than $3.6 million in penalties in 55 inspections at Dollar General locations nationwide. OSHA inspections of the retail stores consistently reveal employee exposure to hazards associated with obstructed exit routes, unstable stacking and blocked working space around electrical panels. These violations represent hazardous and unsafe conditions and place workers at risk of injury.
In August 2021, following inspections at three Mobile stores – Stores 6556, 8083 and 13064 – OSHA inspectors identified five willful violations for failing to keep receiving areas clean and orderly and stacking materials in an unsafe manner – hazards which expose workers to slips, trips and being struck-by objects. The employer also exposed workers to fire hazards by failing to keep exit routes and workspaces around electrical panels clear. As a result of the three Mobile inspections, OSHA proposed $683,680 in penalties.
In Dalton, Georgia, during another August 2021 inspection, OSHA issued citations to Dollar General Store 18688 for two willful and one repeat violations. There, investigators found similar violations. OSHA proposed $364,629 in penalties.
“Dollar General's long and extensive history of workplace safety violations and repeated failures to protect its workers shows willful recklessness,” said OSHA Regional Administrator Kurt Petermeyer in Atlanta. “Their blatant and continued disregard for the safety of their employees must come to an end. The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration will make every effort to hold them accountable for their failures.”
Based in Goodlettsville, Tennessee, Dolgencorp, LLC is a wholly owned subsidiary of Dollar General Corp. and operates about 17,000 stores and 17 distribution centers around the nation, and employs more than 150,000 workers.
Environmental Penalties Issued in Washington for the 4th Quarter of 2021
The Washington Department of Ecology issued $327,700 in penalties of $1,000 or more from October through December 2021. This includes a $304,000 fine to Tiegs, LLC for illegally diverting water from the Columbia River in Franklin County without a water right. A detailed list of the violations and resulting penalties is available in the table below.
Ecology works with thousands of businesses and individuals to help them comply with state laws. Penalties are issued in cases where non-compliance continues after Ecology has provided technical assistance or warnings, or for particularly serious violations.
The money owed from penalties may be reduced from the issued amount due to settlement or court rulings. Funds collected go to the state’s general fund or to dedicated pollution prevention accounts.
Ecology strives to protect, preserve and enhance Washington’s environment and promote wise management for current and future generations. When someone pollutes Washington’s land, air or waters, Ecology enforces state and federal regulations in hopes of changing behavior and deterring future violations.  Click here to see a list of violations.
TCEQ Approved Fines Totaling $161,726
The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality recently approved penalties totaling $126,862 against 11 regulated entities for violations of state environmental regulations.
Agreed orders were issued for the following enforcement categories: three air quality, two municipal wastewater discharge, two public water system, two petroleum storage tank, and one municipal solid waste.
Default orders were issued for the following enforcement categories: one public water system.
Construction Contractor Fined for Willfully Exposing Workers to Falls
An administrative law judge with the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission affirmed willful, repeat and serious citations issued by OSHA to Framing Specialist, Inc., a Palisades Park construction contractor, who exposed workers to fall and safety hazards at two Bergen County work sites.
The judge ordered the company to pay $45,590 in penalties for all violations.
In December 2019, OSHA inspected Framing Specialist, Inc. and subsequently issued citations to the company for not providing fall protection, allowing unsafe ladder use, and failing to ensure eye protection at a Cliffside Park worksite. Inspectors identified one repeat and three serious violations with $15,904 in proposed penalties there.
A second OSHA inspection in February 2020 at a Palisades Park worksite found the company again exposing workers to fall hazards. The company faced an additional $8,096 in proposed penalties for one repeat violation. Framing Specialist contested the citations and penalties from both inspections.
During litigation, the department amended the repeat citation from the second inspection to a willful violation and proposed an increased penalty of $29,686, which the judge also affirmed. 
“Falls are the leading cause of death in the construction industry and exposing workers to fall hazards is an all-too-common and dangerous violation,” said OSHA Regional Administrator Richard Mendelson in New York. “Framing Specialist Inc. repeatedly put its employees at risk while failing to uphold its obligation to provide a safe workplace.”
“When employers ignore their safety responsibilities, the Department of Labor will actively pursue legal measures to protect the lives and well-being of workers,” said Regional Solicitor of Labor Jeffrey S. Rogoff in New York.
Tesla Fined $275,000 for Clean Air Act Violations
EPA recently announced a settlement with Tesla Motors, Inc. EPA found Clean Air Act violations at their automobile manufacturing plant in Fremont, Calif. This settlement aligns with EPA’s National Compliance Initiative, Creating Cleaner Air for Communities by Reducing Excess Emissions of Harmful Pollutants.  Under the settlement, Tesla agreed to pay a $275,000 penalty.
“Today’s enforcement action against Tesla reflects EPA’s continued commitment to ensure compliance with federal clean air laws,” said EPA Pacific Southwest Regional Administrator Martha Guzman. “EPA takes seriously every company’s obligation to safeguard our environment and protect our most vulnerable communities.”
People living in communities that are near sources of hazardous air pollutants may face significant risks to their health and environment. The list of hazardous air pollutants, or “air toxics”, includes over 180 chemicals that are known or suspected to cause cancer or other serious health effects. Tesla’s facility applied coating materials containing formaldehyde, ethylbenzene, naphthalene, and xylene.
Based on several information requests to Tesla, EPA determined that the company violated federal Clean Air Act regulations known as National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants for Surface Coating of Automobiles and Light-Duty Trucks from October 2016 through September 2019 by:
  • Failing to develop and/or implement a work practice plan to minimize hazardous air pollutants emissions from the storage and mixing of materials used in vehicle coating operations
  • Failing to correctly perform required monthly emissions calculations needed to demonstrate that the facility’s coating operations complied with federal hazardous air pollutant standards
  • Failing to collect and keep all required records associated with the calculation of the hazardous air pollutants emission rate for Tesla’s coating operations
Compliance monitoring is one of the key components EPA uses to ensure that the regulated community follows environmental laws and regulations. The case is another example of the Agency’s years-long compliance oversight of this facility. Tesla has corrected the violations noted in both settlements and returned to compliance.
U.S. Department of Labor Announced Pacific Coast Safety Fest, March 14-17
The U.S. Department of Labor and other stakeholders are offering workers, employers, educators, safety and health professionals and others a unique, virtual opportunity to increase their knowledge of workplace safety and health issues during Pacific Coast Safety Fest, March 14-17, 2022.
Pacific Coast Safety Fest is co-sponsored by the department’s OSHA Region 9’s Alliance Partners: the OSHA Training Institute Education Centers at Arizona State University, California State University Dominguez Hills, Chabot-Las Positas Community College District and University of California San Diego.
Organized annually by OSHA – in collaboration with Arizona Division of Occupational Safety and Health, California Division of Occupational Safety and Health, Hawaii Occupational Safety and Health and Nevada State Occupational Safety – the event raises awareness about protecting workers and promoting best workplace practices to prevent illnesses, injuries and fatalities.
The event offers virtual live classes and safety and health resources to anyone working or living in Arizona, California, Nevada, Hawaii, Guam, Pacific Territories and American Samoa. Participation is free, but registration is required.
“More than 4,700 workers were fatally injured in the United States in 2020, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics. Tragically, most of these incidents were preventable,” said Regional Administrator James D. Wulff in San Francisco. “Implementing effective safety and health programs can spare needless suffering of workers, their families and their communities. Events like the Pacific Coast Safety Fest 2022 offer a great opportunity to learn how to stay safe in the workplace.”
Register to join Pacific Coast Safety Fest 2022’s Opening Day.
CARB Settled with Wan Hai Lines for Ocean-Going Vessel Violations
The California Air Resources Board reached a settlement agreement with Wan Hai Lines (USA) Ltd. for $680,750 for violations of the Ocean-Going Vessels At-Berth Regulation that aims to reduce diesel particulate matter and oxides of nitrogen from ocean-going vessels auxiliary engines while they are docked at California ports.
The violations were found during a routine audit by CARB’s Enforcement Division of fleets visiting California ports in 2020. The audit revealed that Wan Hai failed to reduce its fleet auxiliary engine power generation by at least 80 percent while docked at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach and failed to meet the three-hour operational time limit for at least 80 percent of its fleet’s visits. The operational time limit caps the number of hours a vessel may run their engines while in port to a maximum of three hours.
“I commend our Enforcement Division on their diligence in finding these violations that contribute to California’s air quality challenges, especially in port areas that are predominantly comprised of disadvantaged communities that bear a disproportionate health burden,” said CARB Executive Officer Richard W. Corey. “We appreciate that Wan Hai made significant efforts to come into compliance and correct the violations immediately to reduce their fleets’ emissions.”
Wan Hai’s settlement includes a $340,375 civil penalty and $340,375 in funding for two Supplemental Environmental Projects. Nearly $300,000 will fund the installation of an air filtration system in Oakland schools with the remaining $40,777 going to fund an air filtration system at Murchison Street Elementary School and Murchison Early Education Center in Los Angeles.
The original Ocean-Going Vessel At-Berth Regulation was adopted in 2007 with compliance requirements that began in 2014. The regulation affects container ships, passenger ships and refrigerated-cargo ships at six California ports including Los Angeles, Long Beach, Oakland, San Diego, San Francisco and Hueneme. Compliance requirements for vessels include visit requirements and emission or power reduction requirements both which were phased in over time to the current 80 percent reduction requirement.
Montana Hydroelectric Plant Recognized for Excellence in Workplace Safety, Health
OSHA has certified NorthWestern Energy's Holter Hydroelectric Plant in Wolf Creek as a "Star" worksite in the agency's Voluntary Protection Programs, the highest level of recognition for workplace safety and health excellence.
Announced as part of Holter Hydroelectric's recertification in the VPP program – now in its 40th year – the "Star" designation recognizes employers and employees who demonstrate exemplary achievement in the prevention and control of workplace safety and health hazards, as well as the development, implementation and continuous improvement of their safety and health management systems.
"NorthWestern Energy continues to exhibit a significant commitment to employee safety and health performance," said OSHA Regional Administrator Jennifer S. Rous in Denver. "The Holter Hydroelectric site is a great example of what can be accomplished when employees, their union, the company, and OSHA work together in cooperative partnership."
OSHA recognized that the company's approaches to safety and health include daily meetings where employees discuss potential workplace hazards and safety controls proactively, and regular community outreach by employees at the dam and power plant in support of their emergency preparedness plans. Outreach includes annual tabletop and rotating mock drills at Holter and neighboring dams that bring together emergency responders, state road and bridge authorities, news media, the National Weather Service, and other internal and external stakeholders.
"We conduct outreach to more than 100 people on a regular and annual basis to ensure we're prepared in the event there is ever a major issue with the facility that would threaten the workers or the public," said NorthWestern Energy Operations and Maintenance Superintendent Jeremy Butcher. "This results in a regularly exercised program with our partners, as many of the dams are in close proximity and the same responders and major players are often involved."
Employees at Holter Dam are regularly trained and equipped to perform lifesaving first aid, and work with local law enforcement, fire departments and contractors to ensure familiarity with the facility and access points above and below the dam to help expedite emergency responses.
NorthWestern Energy has four sites participating in VPP nationwide. OSHA initially approved Holter Hydroelectric as a VPP program participant in June 2008.
Raleigh Company Recognized as Steward for Commitment to Reducing Environmental Impact
The North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality recognized Ajinomoto Health and Nutrition North America, Inc. as an Environmental Steward for its commitment to superior environmental performance. The Steward designation is the highest designation available in the state’s Environmental Stewardship Initiative (ESI).
“Ajinomoto Health and Nutrition set aggressive goals to preserve and protect our environment and integrated these values into their core business functions,” said DEQ Secretary Elizabeth S. Biser at today’s presentation of a plaque to recognize the facility’s achievement. “Because they go above and beyond what is required, this facility is one of only 30 in our state recognized as a Steward.”
Ajinomoto Health and Nutrition North America, Inc. manufactures amino acids used in a variety of products from pharmaceuticals and sports supplements to foods and beauty products. This facility joined ESI in 2015 and was recommended for recognition because of their continuing commitment to reducing their environmental impact in waste, water and energy. Among their achievements: reducing waste sent to landfill by more than 97 percent, reducing electrical usage through lighting upgrades and higher efficiency chillers and boilers, and reducing water usage through process changes and improvements. The plant also has a strong history of environmental compliance and works with the local community to provide environmental information and leadership.
“Ajinomoto Health and Nutrition is committed to manufacturing the highest quality amino acid products with minimum environmental impact,” said Andrew Steinhauer, General Manager of Ajinomoto Health and Nutrition’s Raleigh plant. “Since joining the NC Environmental Stewardship Initiative, our Raleigh team members have pursued continuous improvement and pollution prevention by conserving water and energy while eliminating waste streams. We are proud to celebrate our promotion to Environmental Steward, which is a result of the significant efforts of our team, and we are excited to continue partnering with others in the community to improve our operations and share lessons learned.”
Free Amazon HD 10 Tablet with RCRA and DOT Training
Annual training is required by 40 CFR 262.17(a)(7).  Learn how to complete EPA’s new electronic hazardous waste manifest, and the more than 60 changes in EPA’s Hazardous Waste Generator Improvements Rule.  Environmental Resource Center’s Hazardous Waste Training is available at nationwide locations, and via live webcasts.  If you plan to also attend DOT Hazardous Materials Training, call 800-537-2372 to find out how can get your course materials on an Amazon Fire HD 10 tablet at no extra charge.
News Links
Trivia Question of the Week