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Timing Right for TSCA Reform
By Steve Shimberg

The experience of too many NORA Members is that EPA has shown little sympathy or flexibility for companies that follow the regulations and innocently get stuck with PCB contaminated oil through no fault of their own. Even when the contaminated oil has low concentrations of PCBs, EPA often cites the anti-dilution rule and insists on expensive disposal in TSCA incinerators.

It doesn’t seem to matter if there was fraud or even criminal activity by others; you are getting stuck with an unnecessary, expensive cleanup tab and, in some cases, civil penalties – even in cases of self-disclosure!

What makes this so perplexing is the fact that this is not a risk issue – EPA’s position is not necessary for environmental protection. The Agency determined many years ago that "the burning of PCB containing oil in concentrations below 50 ppm in industrial boilers and furnaces does not present an unreasonable risk to public health or the environment under normal operating conditions.” Even at concentrations above 50 ppm, there are technologies that can process the oil for safe reuse. Incineration should not be the default management option in all cases.

To address this problem, NORA has launched a new TSCA Reform Project. The goals of this new project are (1) a legislative amendment to TSCA that will promote safe and effective management of oil that was inadvertently contaminated with PCBs, and (2) a shift in EPA’s enforcement approach to more readily use existing regulatory flexibility to allow management of PCB contaminated oil in facilities other than TSCA incinerators.

The time is right for this new project. TSCA is the only major environmental law that has not been significantly amended or updated since its original enactment. Proponents of reform have been pressing the issue for over seven years and, in 2012, the Senate Environment Committee voted to send a reform bill to the full Senate. That bill did not become law but, when a new Congress convenes in January 2013, TSCA reform will once again be on the legislative agenda and NORA will be an active participant in the process.

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