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EPA Mulls Chemical Fee Options For Covid-Impacted Businesses (1)

June 1, 2020, 4:27 PMUpdated: June 1, 2020, 5:44 PM

The EPA is exploring whether—due to the coronavirus pandemic—it can offer financial relief to manufacturers of 20 chemicals who must pay chemical risk evaluation fees this year.

The agency announced last December that manufacturers and importers of formaldehyde and 19 other chemicals must pay a total of $27 million to contribute toward the EPA’s costs of evaluating those chemicals’ potential to injure people or the environment.

“EPA is currently exploring flexibilities and payment options to help provide relief for businesses impacted by the Covid-19 public health emergency,” agency spokeswoman Andrea Woods said.

Woods replied by email to questions about how the Environmental Protection Agency will respond to a request that five chemical trade associations made asking the agency to postpone until next year the chemical risk evaluation fees.

“We respectfully request you defer TSCA risk evaluation user fee payments for 12 months,” the American Coatings Association, Adhesive and Sealant Council, Chlorine Institute, Color Pigments Manufacturers Association, National Association of Chemical Distributors, Society of Chemical Manufacturers and Affiliates (SOCMA), and Vinyl Institute wrote in April.

The fees, authorized by the 2016 Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), ensure the chemical industry helps the EPA recoup some of its costs overseeing the safety of chemicals.

‘Forbearance,’ Not Forgiveness

Member companies “are not seeking forgiveness of the fees, only their forbearance,” the coalition wrote.

“The pandemic has strained supply chains, increased transportation costs, and has negatively impacted companies that service key sectors particularly hard hit by the coronavirus, such as the automotive and fossil fuel industries,” said Robert Helminiak, vice president for legal and government relations at SOCMA, said Monday.

In light of those strains and the significant economic uncertainty that remains, it would help companies to have the TSCA risk evaluation fees deferred for a year, or for the agency, at a minimum, to allow payment plans, Helminiak said by email.

The EPA understands the concerns regarding the timing of TSCA fees payments, Woods said. Yet its fee regulation requires payments 120 days after it issues its final risk evaluation plans for the 20 chemicals, she said.

The agency is expected to start releasing those final risk evaluation plans this month, meaning the fees would be due this fall.

(Updated with comment from Robert Helminiak in eighth and ninth paragraphs.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Pat Rizzuto in Washington at prizzuto@bloombergindustry.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Gregory Henderson at ghenderson@bloombergindustry.com; Chuck McCutcheon at cmccutcheon@bloombergenvironment.com