Small businesses and manufacturers are warning that federal environmental regulations targeting certain chemicals will have a widespread negative impact on the economy.
The regulations — proposed in April by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) — would ban most uses of methylene chloride (MCL), a chemical that has various uses in adhesives, paint and coating products, pharmaceuticals, metal cleaning, chemical processing and aerosols. The EPA explained the chemical poses serious risks to health, though it carved out exemptions for military and processing uses.
“The science on methylene chloride is clear, exposure can lead to severe health impacts and even death, a reality for far too many families who have lost loved ones due to acute poisoning,” said EPA Administrator Michael Regan after proposing the rule.
“That’s why EPA is taking action, proposing to ban most uses of this chemical and reduce exposures in all other scenarios by implementing more stringent workplace controls to protect worker health,” he continued.
Since unveiling the rules, EPA has received tens of thousands of comments from the public, including industry groups strongly opposed. The comment period for the rule concludes on Monday.
The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), American Petroleum Institute, and Ohio Manufacturers’ Association (OMA) each expressed concern that the regulations would be detrimental to the economy if finalized as is or not substantially modified.
“OMA can appreciate EPA’s desire to restrict use of methylene chloride to the general public, retailers, and consumers such as home contractors/remodelers who may not be fully aware of the necessary precautions to safely use this chemical,” OMA stated in its comment letter. “However, this proposed rule is a case of ‘throwing-the-baby-out-with-the-bathwater.’”
“We have grave concerns that EPA is going beyond its statutory authority with this rule, and usurping [the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA)] authority to regulate workplace safety by replacing OSHA’s limits with EPA’s own limits and practices,” it continued. “Therefore, we urge in the strongest terms that the final rule exempts commercial and industrial sectors, that are already highly regulated by OSHA.”
OMA added that the EPA’s proposed workplace safety standards targeting MCL usage amount to an “onerous, top-down, command-and-control, bureaucratic process.” Under the EPA’s action, the agency proposed a workplace chemical protection program to minimize workers’ MCL exposure.
In addition, the NFIB, which is the largest U.S. small business group, stated the regulations would have “business-closing and job-killing” impacts. The group argued the EPA should withdraw the rule since its determination of health impacts is “fatally flawed,” there isn’t a viable replacement for MCL and the EPA failed to properly study the impact on the national economy.
“EPA reached the conclusion with respect to the MCL proposed rule that EPA ‘did not find that there would be an impact on the national economy,’” the NFIB stated.
“Table 3 in the notice of the MCL proposed rule, listing broad sectors of the economy that EPA plans to prohibit from using MCL, and the specific EPA statement that furniture refinisher business closures alone has an upper bound lost revenue level of $1.8 billion, suffice to render the EPA conclusion unreasonable.”
Charles Paint Research, a Missouri-based formulator of MCL-based chemical products, said in its own comment letter that the regulations would impact 70% of the products it manufactures and “seriously impact our future existence and that of our clients.”
And Olin, the world’s largest manufacturer of chlorine and chlorine derivatives, said the EPA rule amounts to “arbitrary bans on dozens of vital industrial use cases” for MCL while arbitrarily exempting politically favored industries. The company added that the proposal “will do terrible damage to the national economy that will compound with each future rulemaking.”
“The exposure limits as proposed — which are the strictest in the world by orders of magnitude — will result in increased reliance on China for many end products that could have been produced in the United States,” Olin wrote in its comment letter.
“The current lack of clarity from the EPA on industry’s future production and ability to measure new exposure limits makes it difficult for American companies to develop and bring new and innovative products to market, putting American companies at a disadvantage compared to their international competitors,” it continued.
According to Olin, the proposal would outright ban 85% of MCL end-uses. The company further projected the rule could result in drug shortages and impact supply chains for Hepatitis B and HIV medications, medications used to treat mental illnesses, a medication to treat epilepsy, a medication to treat high cholesterol and over the counter allergy treatments.