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EPA's priorities for '92.

In addition to the solid-waste issues discussed here last month, clean air and water rules will share the regulatory spotlight for plastics processors in 1992. "We were busier than ever in 1991, and we expect momentum to continue," says Lewis Freeman, SPI's v.p. of federal government affairs in Washington, D.C.

Regulatory issues for 1992 can be broken up to "ifs" and "hows," according to Freeman - "How you can change the way a product is manufactured to gain compliance, or if you can make or use a product at all."

For example, proposed limitations on heavy-metal usage could ultimately put use of cadmium-containing colorants and stabilizers into the "if" category. Currently, 10 states belonging to CONEG, the Coalition of North-eastern Governors, are calling for packaging manufacturers to reduce total concentrations of cadmium, lead, and hexavalent chromium in their products to 600 ppm two years after state legislation is enacted, 250 ppm three years after, and 100 ppm four years after it is enacted.


The Clean Air Act is a "how" issue. Although slow to be implemented, it will become important for processors as actual regulations are proposed. EPA Administrator William Reilly said that by the end of 1992, "EPA will have put into place a toxics program that will achieve greater reduction by the end of 1995 than EPA has been able to accomplish in the past 10 years."

EPA has already proposed rules that will remove almost two-thirds of the 56 billion lb of air pollutants that the Clean Air Act is supposed to take out of the air by the year 2005. One rule of interest to processors will be reduction of volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions by 95 million lb/yr in the nine cities with the worst smog problems.

On a state level, VOC programs have not cleaned up the air as well as had been expected, says Joseph M. Pattok, SPI's director of state government affairs. "Thus, states are beginning to look at smaller sources such as foam blowing plants. Wisconsin is already looking at this segment."

EPA has proposed an incentive for industry to reduce toxic emissions earlier than is required by the Act. Last June, EPA offered industrial firms a six-year extension of their deadline for meeting emission standards if they elect to reduce certain air pollutants by 90% to 95% ahead of schedule.

A related issue is Proposition 65, the new California law that says no business or person shall knowingly expose any individual to a chemical known to cause cancer or reproductive toxicity without first giving clear and reasonable warning. Now, Ohio has proposed a similar rule, but with a provision that takes restrictions a step further. It will allow any person within a two-mile radius of a plant to petition the state to force the company to do risk analysis on any of the 289 toxic pollutants designated by EPA. Pattok considers this rule unlikely to pass the legislature this spring, but it could then go on the ballot in November.

This month, EPA will add 17 air toxics to its Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) list. Those of potential interest are cadmium and compounds, chromium and compounds, lead and compounds, nickel and compounds, and the solvents benzene, toluene, xylenes, carbon tetrachloride and trichloroethylene. Most of these are already covered by Section 313 of the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act.

Another interesting proposal from EPA regarding toxics is the Environmental Hazard Communication Rule, which would be a supplement to the OSHA Hazard Communication Rule. EPA's proposal would require environmental information to be included on Material Safety Data Sheets (MS-DS). Such information could include "toxicity data; environmental fate data; use, handling, transportation and disposal recommendations; and significant regulatory information. In addition, the rule could require environmental labeling and/or training to supplement OSHA's requirement," according to the agency. However, the rule would not require testing to be performed if data were not available. Some action is expected on this proposal by the end of 1992.

Also in 1992, EPA will begin to set regulations on prevention and detection of accidental releases from stationary sources, like plastics processing plants. EPA plans to require of stationary sources where a regulated substance is present "in quantities greater than a threshold amount, to implement a risk-management plan for detection and prevention of accidental releases." Final regulations are not expected until November of 1993.


As for water protection, EPA intends to set federal water-quality standards for as many as 105 toxic pollutants in 22 states and territories that have not fully adopted their own standards. Chemicals of interest to plastics processors that are on EPA's preliminary list are cadmium, benzene, methylene chloride, and toluene. A final regulation is expected to be published in the federal register in February.

Another clean-water issue gaining momentum is at the state level. Since the Great Lakes have "unique characteristics and needs," in the words of SPI's Pattock, and regional businesses have complained of differing rules for different Great Lakes, the Great Lakes Water Quality Initiative (GLI) was proposed by EPA's Chicago office. It would set basin-wide quality standards that reduce or eliminate the release of certain toxics into the Great Lakes.

Industry responded to the initiative by forming The Great Lakes Water Quality Coalition. SPI is involved because "a big chunk of our membership is located in this area," as Pattok notes. "Most plastics processors don't have water quality permits," he adds. "They pay Publicly Owned Treatment Works (POTW) to take their contaminated water and then clean it. Apparently, this water is not clean enough for GLI, so new proposals are calling for companies to pretreat their water before POTW does. That will be very expensive."

So far, an EPA steering committee has voted to forward draft guidelines to EPA and recommended that an economic impact assessment be conducted before guidelines are published in the Federal Register this March. Whatever becomes of GLI, Pattok is certain that it will set a trend for water-quality regulations.



Another concern for plastics processors in 1992 has to do with changes in the Superfund Law that hold "potentially responsible" polluters liable for the cost of site cleanups. "Plastics processors are being named as responsible parties," says SPI's Freeman. "We will have to determine how wide the circle has become for paying for cleanups. And if a processor is named as a responsible party, how will the firm prove it is not guilty? That's another dilemma that has to be dealt with in 1992."

This rule could put a smaller plastics processor out of business, concerned sources say. In 1992, EPA will define "specific recoverable costs and describe the documentation sufficient to support cost-recovery efforts," according to the agency's published agenda for the year.

These regulations will also "address other related aspects, including release of confidential business information in the cost recovery process and the Agency interpretation of certain statute of limitations provisions," the agenda says. Final action on this regulation is expected by October 1992.
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Title Annotation:Industry News; Environmental Protection Agency; 1992 regulatory forecast, part
Author:Block, Debbie Galante
Publication:Plastics Technology
Date:Feb 1, 1992
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