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US EPA weighing legal action to get REACH data

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The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is considering using its subpoena authority under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) to get US companies to provide it with certain data they have provided for REACH compliance.

Speaking at the GlobalChem conference in Baltimore, director of the EPA's Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics, Wendy Cleland-Hamnett said the agency is looking at information in the REACH database for evidence “that there might be data that we don’t have access to”. In such cases, the EPA is approaching the US companies involved to ask if they can provide that information to the agency. And if they decline citing data-sharing agreements, the agency may look at its authority under Section 11 of TSCA to require the submission of the data.

The substance information exchange fora (Siefs) established to prepare joint REACH registration dossiers – which is mandated under the EU regulation – have data and cost-sharing agreements to compensate data owners. These agreements stipulate how the data can be used.

The EPA has heard from a number of companies that some agreements allow data to be provided “if a competent authority requests it”, Ms Cleland-Hamnet said. “Believing that EPA is a competent authority, we are considering taking that approach” as well, she added.

The agency has used its subpoena authority in the past, but not frequently. However Ms Cleland-Hamnet said that "it seems like an appropriate tool for the REACH data issue.” Approaching industry consortia, which often drive the work of Siefs, directly for data will also be pursued, she added.

Meanwhile, the agency is planning revisions to its work plan chemical list in the next few months. It is looking at the results of the 2012 chemical data reporting period. “We only want to keep chemicals on the work plan if they are still in commerce,” she said, adding that another criterion for work plan chemicals is use information.

For the work plan and other chemicals the EPA is “comparing notes” with Canadian regulators in areas such as chemical characteristics, uses and assessments, Ms Cleland-Hamnett said. “Where we can, we use work done by others to save time and effort,” she added.

Encouraging companies to declassify confidential business information claims that are no longer valid, and unveiling the ChemView (CW 4 March 2014) database, are part of the agency’s efforts to provide better access to data, she said. The agency aims to have all TSCA  health and safety and regulatory information in ChemView by 2017.

The EPA's reworking of the Design for the Environment programme label to “better reflect what we are trying to achieve” to consumers is expected in 2015, Ms Cleland-Hamnett said.

Dinesh Kumar

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