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Frequent Questions

EPA Rulemaking on the Defense Logistics Agency’s Polychlorinated Biphenyl Import Petition:

Why is the EPA granting the petition?

The EPA is granting the petition to: (1) avoid the risks of long-term storage of the PCBs on military installations in Japan, (2) ensure proper and safe disposal of PCBs, and (3) ensure the safety of U.S. military personnel and Japanese citizens.

Why did the EPA withdraw the direct final rule?

In the direct final rule, the EPA stated if adverse comments on the proposed rule were received by May 2, 2014 the direct final rule would not take effect and we would publish a timely withdrawal in the Federal Register. The EPA received one adverse comment, thus the rule was withdrawn.

What was the main point of the adverse comment the EPA received?

The comment received states in part, “In brief, since the first two permissions were granted in 2003 and 2007, there have been alarming increases in previously rare malignancies such as melanoma and liver carcinoma. Additionally even common malignancies such as breast cancer have had substantial rises. PCBs have also been linked to endocrine disorders such as diabetes and obesity both of which have seen dramatic increasing trends” (Docket Document ID EPA-HQ-RCRA-2013-0396-0004). The comment did not include specific information to support the claim of increased numbers of cancers nor did the comment include any support for the claim that this increase is due to PCB exposures. The comment provided does not change the EPA’s evaluation that granting this exemption will not result in an unreasonable risk of injury to human health or the environment.

The EPA held an informal hearing on July 8, 2014. What was the main point of the presentation given at the informal hearing?

The presentation included a request for the EPA to update the classification of PCBs from a probable human carcinogen to a known human carcinogen and included citations to studies purportedly indicating a connection between certain types of cancers and PCBs (Docket Document ID EPA-HQ-RCRA-2013-0396-0011). In the direct final rule for this action, as well as re-stated in the final rule, EPA recognizes cancer as a possible health effect from exposure to PCBs. Therefore, neither information in the comment nor in the presentation characterizes risks of PCBs that were not previously considered by the EPA. The information presented does not change EPA’s evaluation that granting this exemption will not result in an unreasonable risk of injury to human health or the environment. Specifically, the additional research states cancer has been associated with PCB exposure, and argues PCBs are causal for a specific cancer (e.g., non-Hodgkin lymphoma). This information is insufficient to demonstrate that proper disposal in accordance with our regulations would result in an unreasonable risk. The PCB wastes under this exemption must be properly disposed of according to the regulations set forth in 40 CFR Part 761.

What did the EPA do with the information it received at the informal hearing?

The information received at the public hearing, as well as a verbatim transcript of the hearing, are referenced in the Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs): Manufacturing (Import) Exemption for the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) Federal Register Notice (PDF) (5 pp, 236 K - September 29, 2014).

What findings did the EPA make under TSCA in order to grant this petition?

There are two required findings the EPA must make under TSCA Section 6(e)(3)(B) in order to grant this petition:

(i) an unreasonable risk of injury to human health or environment would not result, and

(ii) good faith efforts have been made to develop a chemical substance which does not present an unreasonable risk of injury to human health or the environment and which may be substituted for such polychlorinated biphenyl.

The relevant "good faith" issue for an exemption request to import PCBs for disposal is whether the disposal of the waste could and/or should occur outside the United States. Without an exemption granted by the EPA, the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) would not be allowed to import the PCB waste to the U.S. for proper disposal. In fact, if the exemption is not granted, it is very likely that DLA will not be able to find any country willing to accept and properly dispose of the PCB waste.

Has the EPA previously received similar petitions from the DLA? Did the EPA approve those?

The EPA received two previous petitions from the DLA to allow PCBs from the Department of Defense (DoD) installations in Japan to be returned to the United States for proper disposal; these petitions were granted in 2003 (see January 31, 2003 Federal Register, 68 FR 4934) and in 2007 (see September 18, 2007 Federal Register,72 FR 53152).

How much PCB waste will be imported?

The DLA's petition to the EPA would allow for the import of up to 1,014,222 pounds of waste contaminated with PCBs, of which 94 percent contains less than 50 parts per million (ppm) of PCBs. In order to protect human health and the environment, the EPA has specific provisions for the disposal of the waste containing less than 50 ppm of PCBs, as well as the waste containing greater than or equal to 50 ppm of PCBs.

 

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