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Chevron Phillips Chemical Fails to Report Massive Imports of Benzene and Dangerous Chemicals to EPA

May 11, 2021

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Aimee Dewing,

Chevron Phillips Chemical Fails to Report Massive Imports of Benzene and Other Dangerous Chemicals to EPA under the Toxic Substances Control Act

Lack of reporting prevents agencies and communities from tracking the movement of cancer-causing chemicals in commerce and identifying threats to public health

Oakland, CA  – Pollution watchdog Center for Environmental Health (CEH) announced today that Chevron Phillips Chemical Company (CPC), a major US chemical producer and petrochemical company, committed several violations of the Chemical Data Reporting (CDR) rule under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).

According to CEH’s analysis of import records, CPC failed to report over 359 million pounds of benzene and over 60 million pounds of dichlorobenzene (DCB) that the company imported between 2013 and 2015. CPC was required to report these imports in 2016 under the CDR rule.

CDR reports provide important information about how and where chemicals are used and the nature and extent of exposure to workers and communities.  EPA has emphasized that the “exposure information [reported] under the CDR rule is an essential part of developing risk evaluations and . . collecting this exposure information is critical to [EPA’s] mission of characterizing exposure, identifying potential risks, and noting uncertainties for [reportable] chemical substances.” 

“Chemical data reporting is a critical tool in informing communities of chemical risks and enabling EPA, state, and local agencies to protect public health,” said Michael Green, Chief Executive Officer of CEH. “Chevron Phillips Chemical’s failure to report hundreds of millions of pounds of two carcinogens is a gaping hole in the safety net that safeguards workers and vulnerable populations and helps state and federal regulators do their jobs.  Benzene is a well-known carcinogen.  Frontline workers and fenceline communities have a right to know when huge chemical companies bring these chemicals into their lives and communities. It’s a new day and we are not going to let these chemical companies hide what they are doing any longer.”

There is extensive evidence that benzene exposure causes leukemia and other cancers of blood cells and it has been designated as a known human carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, the National Toxicology Program (NTP), the Office of Environmental Health Hazards (OEHHA), and EPA. Benzene is one of the most widely used chemicals in the US and exposures are particularly high in frontline communities of color and low-wealth communities near refineries, chemical plants and other industrial facilities.

The benzene imports CPC failed to report were primarily shipped to its manufacturing facility in Port Arthur, Texas, which had benzene emissions of 628,868 pounds from 2000 to 2019 and ranked first among benzene emitters in Port Arthur in 2016 and 2017, according to data submitted to EPA’s Toxic Release Inventory (TRI).  

The second chemical, p-dichlorobenzene (p-DCB), is considered a potential carcinogen by the National Toxicology Program (NTP) and EPA. p-DCB is one of two DCB isomers, along with o-dichlorobenzene, that the EPA has designated as high-priority substances under TSCA. The agency is currently conducting risk evaluations on these chemicals to determine health threats to exposed populations. EPA relies heavily on CDR reports to inform risk evaluations and its inability to account for CPC’s imports has likely resulted in a significant underestimation of DCB use and exposure in the US.  

The violations came to light as a result of CEH’s search of publicly available data on benzene imports between 2011 and 2015, the period for which reporting was required for the EPA 2016 CDR Update. This data was not available through the EPA. On February 17, 2021, CEH notified CPC and the EPA Administrator of its intent to sue CPC under TSCA section 20(b)(1) for its failure to file CDR reports for its benzene imports in 2016. 

On April 21, in response to the February notice of intent, CPC confirmed to CEH that it failed to file CDR reports for benzene imports for the 2016 update and also did not report imports of benzene and four additional chemicals for the 2020 update.  CPC also notified CEH that on April 14, 2021 it filed late reports with EPA for benzene and the four other unreported chemicals for the 2016 and 2020 CDR Updates. CPC has since rejected CEH’s request for copies of these late reports and the reports are not yet publicly available. Therefore, CEH is unable to verify whether CPC is now in compliance with the CDR rule, and front-line communities lack information on the use and distribution of the imported chemicals and how, where, and at what levels people are exposed to them.  

After hearing from CPC on April 21, CEH undertook a further search of import data for 2011-2016 and identified imports of DCB by CPC that are not reflected in the reports it filed for the 2016 CDR update. CEH has sent to CPC a notice of intent to sue for these apparent violations, which,  to our knowledge, remain outstanding. 

“We believe these violations are the tip of the iceberg within the industry and CDR non-compliance is likely widespread and significant,” said Robert Sussman, CEH counsel and a former EPA senior official. “Non-profit groups like CEH can do only so much to deter violations if EPA does not effectively use the enforcement tools at its disposal to find and penalize violators.”  

EPA promulgated the CDR rule in 2011 under section 8(a) of TSCA. Under the rule, reporting is required for all chemicals manufactured or imported at a site in volumes of 25,000 pounds or more per facility in a given reporting year. For chemicals already regulated under certain TSCA provisions, the reporting threshold is set at 2,500 pounds per reporting year. Manufacturers and importers subject to the CDR must report every four years. A reporting cycle was completed in the fall of 2016, with reports due on October 31, 2016. For this CDR update, manufacturing and import activities conducted in calendar years 2012-2015 determined the application of reporting requirements and the information to be reported. The 2020 reporting cycle covered calendar years 2016-2019, with reports due on January 29, 2021, due to a COVID-related extension. 

Under the CDR rule, reports must be submitted using a “Form U.” Separate forms must be filed for each manufacture or import site. The Form U must include import/manufacture volume for each of the last four years, the number of workers exposed and basic information about site operations. It must also include information about industrial, commercial and consumer uses of the substance at other sites and the potential for exposure associated with these downstream activities.

CPC is a joint venture of Chevron Corporation and Phillips 66 and is headquartered in The Woodlands Texas. It has several manufacturing facilities in the petrochemical centers of East Texas, elsewhere in the US and abroad. 

The Center for Environmental Health is committed to protecting people from toxic chemicals through research, legal action and by working with communities, consumers, workers, government, and the private sector to demand and support business practices that are safe for public health and the environment.