Comments are due February 3rd on EPA’s proposed (and much anticipated) rule to eliminate use of the de minimis exemption for reporting on per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (“PFAS”) under the Toxic Release Inventory (“TRI”) program.
When the 2021 TRI data were published last year, those following the ever evolving world of PFAS were initially surprised to see such a small PFAS presence represented. Indeed, of the 75,890 total entries reported to TRI for all chemicals in 2021 (from nearly 21,000 facilities), EPA received merely 92 PFAS reporting forms on 46 different PFAS from 45 facilities. This information seems even more jarring considering that approximately 650 PFAS are currently in commerce (though only 172 are currently subject to TRI reporting) from about 120,000 facilities.
The reason for this gap was the vast employment of an aptly named “de minimis” exemption, a long-standing TRI policy that allows facilities to ignore amounts of substances in chemical mixtures when present at concentrations below 1% (or 0.1% for carcinogens). The Agency has signaled since 2020 that it planned to do away with the exemption for PFAS, and the December 5 proposal follows through on that pledge.
In announcing the rule, EPA asserted that it “would ensure that covered industry sectors and federal facilities that make or use TRI-listed PFAS will no longer be able to rely on the de minimis exemption to avoid disclosing their PFAS releases and other waste management quantities for these chemicals.”
By removing this reporting loophole, we’re advancing the work set out in the Agency’s PFAS Strategic Roadmap and ensuring that companies report information for even small concentrations of PFAS. We will make this information available to the public so EPA and other federal, state and local agencies can use it to help best protect health and the environment.EPA Administrator Michael Regan
The Agency and several environmental organizations have argued in the past that the so-called “reporting loophole” of the de minimis exemption allows facilities to avoid reporting releases of potentially significant amounts of TRI-listed chemicals, thereby diminishing public trust, obfuscating transparency, and keeping community members in the dark about chemicals they believe to be hazardous to human health. The Sierra Club alongside other organizations, for example, have sued EPA claiming that the exemption is not statutorily permitted. The case, National PFAS Contamination Coalition, et al. v. EPA, is currently pending in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia.
However, as pointed out by the reporting community of industry stakeholders, the de minimis exemption helps make the TRI program more workable in practice by limiting the scope of substances for which reporting is required and not requiring companies to chase down information on miniscule amounts of substances present at trace quantities that generally pose little to no risk.
For certain chemicals of “special concern” – such as mercury, dioxins, lead, and other “persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic” substances – EPA previously has eliminated availability of the exemption, as well as the TRI short-form (Form A) reporting option. The proposed rule would add PFAS to the category of chemicals of “special concern.”
In order to ensure that downstream users are informed of the presence of “special concern” chemicals in mixtures and products they purchase, the proposed rule also would make the exemption unavailable for supplier notification requirements.