Past Action

Potential PCB Regulatory Revisions

Tribal leaders are invited to a Consultation Briefing on December 12, 2013. Tribes will have the opportunity to provide input during the meeting and/or submit any written comments to EPA within six weeks of after the meeting.

Executive Order 13175 Consultation Briefing
Date: December 12, 2013
Time: 10:00-11:30am EST and 3:00-4:30pm EST
Call in # is 1-800-380-1073
Conference ID for 10am is 98233044# and conference ID for 3pm is 98235260#.

Direct questions and RSVP with Tom Simons in the EPA's Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention or 202-566-0517.

The Toxic Substance Control Act generally prohibited the manufacture, processing, distribution in commerce, and use of PCBs, effective on January 1, 1977 and EPA promulgated these regulations on May 31, 1979. Since then, EPA has proposed, revised and published regulationsallowing certain uses of PCBs as outlined at:

Generally, the rules have continued to allow the use of PCB-containing equipment to the end of the equipment’s useful life. EPA is currently considering whether to eliminate or restrict certain use authorizations.

The current definition for excluded manufacturing process for PCBs states:What are the current authorized uses for PCBs?

Page 4 of the 2010 Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for PCB Use Authorizations pdf file (17648 FR Notice) describes current PCB authorizations and is summarized here. It has been 12 years since a final rule has been published for PCBs in Electrical Equipment.

  • Liquid-filled PCB equipment authorized for use in a non-totally enclosed manner include: electrical transformers, railroad transformers, mining equipment, heat transfer systems, hydraulic systems, electromagnets, switches, voltage regulators, electrical capacitors, circuit breakers, reclosers, liquid-filled cable, rectifiers.
  • Liquid PCBs are authorized for use where they are a contaminant in the following equipment: natural gas pipeline systems, contaminated natural gas pipe and appurtenances, and other gas or liquid transmission systems.
  • Use authorizations for certain non-liquid PCB applications include: carbonless copy paper and porous surfaces contaminated with PCBs regulated for disposal by spills of liquid PCBs.
  • Other use authorizations include: research and development, for scientific instruments, and for decontamination materials.

What is NOT authorized currently as uses for PCBs?

  • Non-liquid PCB containing products containing PCBs at concentrations > 50 ppm, including but not limited to adhesives, caulk, coatings, grease, paint, rubber or plastic electrical insulation, gaskets, sealants, and waxes.

How does EPA regulate PCBs in Excluded and Recycled Products?

The level of 50 ppm has been used in PCB use regulations since 1979. Based on regulatory history, this number is based almost entirely on economic considerations. There has been no traditional exposure and risk assessment calculations done by EPA (as of publication of the 2010 ANPRM).


  • The concentration of inadvertently generated PCBs in products leaving any manufacturing site or imported into the United States must have an annual average of less than 25 ppm, with a 50 ppm maximum.

The current definition for recycled PCBs states:

  • The concentration of PCBs in paper products leaving any manufacturing site processing paper products or paper products imported into the United States must have an annual average of less than 25 ppm, with a 50 ppm maximum. The definition requires the releases of PCBs to ambient air at any point be at concentrations < 10 ppm.
What is EPA proposing to revise?
The Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for PCB Use Authorizations initiated in 2010 intended to address ALL CURRENT ALLOWABLE PCB USES.


  • The use, distribution in commerce, marking, and storage for reuse of liquid PCBs in electric and non-electric equipment.
  • The use of the 50 ppm level for excluded PCB products.
  • The use of non-liquid PCBs.
  • The use and distribution in commerce of PCBs in porous surfaces.
  • The marking of PCB articles in use.
  • Reassessing the definitions of "excluded manufacturing process," "quantifiable level/level of detection," and "recycled PCBs"

EPA's October 2013 consultation letter states that "the Agency has refined the scope of what it intends to address in its rulemaking… In particular, EPA would like:

  • feedback from tribes on whether they would incur direct compliance costs if EPA revised or revoked certain PCB use authorizations (e.g., authorizations for ongoing use of PCBs in certain electrical equipment)."

"Current allowable PCB uses, along with the potential for their release into the environment, will continue so long as EPA's regulations allow it… EPA can no longer support the conclusion that they [PCBs] do not present unreasonable risk of injury to health and the environment." 

Quoted from EPA Tribal Consultation Letter, Dec 15, 2011

National Tribal Toxics Council Concerns about PCBs

  • Significant contributions of PCBs to water bodies across the US originate from sources currently allowable by Federal regulations under the Toxic Substance Control Act.
  • EPA is focused on closed and partially closed PCB applications during this consultation process, which does address the millions of pounds of PCB-contaminated liquid that remains in contained, but old electrical equipment.
  • Open applications of PCBs such as plasticizers like caulk, dyes, and flame retardants are in direct contact with their surroundings and thereby easily transferred to humans and the environment.
  • Direct PCB contact with the environment, our foods, and our people is as great of a concern for open uses as it is for closed applications.
  • It is time to ask EPA to eliminate all federal exclusions or exceptions for inadvertently-created PCBs, eliminate PCBs from all dyes, pigments, and ink and develop an action plan for addressing PCBs in the environment.
Significance to Tribes:


The 2010 ANPRM explains that by prohibiting the use of PCBs (except in a totally enclosed manner), Congress established a statutory presumption that use of PCBs poses an unreasonable risk of injury to health or the environment. In order to assess whether a use poses "no unreasonable risks." EPA would like to include an assessment of impacts on the economy, electrical energy availability, and all other health, environmental, or social impacts that could be expected from adoption of alternatives to PCBs.


EPA's October 31 Tribal Consultation Letter states, the revisions under consideration would primarily impact owners of PCB-containing electrical equipment and natural gas pipeline transmission and distribution companies. To the extent that tribes own PCB-containing electrical equipment, including PCB-containing small capacitors in fluorescent light ballasts, some of the rule options could result in direct tribal compliance costs. Perhaps most significantly, tribes that own school buildings may experience direct compliance costs.

Tribal participation in EPA's January 2013 consultation call on PCB Use Authorizations documented the following comments (four tribal participants participated in the call):

  • Tribal populations consume higher than average amounts of fish.
  • Concern over the presence of PCBs in fish and the potential sources of those PCBs.
  • Generally supportive of restricting the current use authorizations for PCBs.

The Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Reservation Department of Natural Resources offered the following comments on the US EPA’s proposed rules regarding the Reassessment of Use Authorizations for PCBs in (August 2010):

As to "Reconsideration of the Use of the 50 ppm Level for Excluded PCB Products," we ask that you reduce the level to zero. There is no adequate justification for maintaining the 50 ppm level for these products. Specifically, the CTUIR DNR supports the elimination of PCBs from all dyes, pigments and inks, and encourages EPA to adopt rules mandating such a requirement.



See CTUIR DNR's comment letter for details on pre-existing right to take fish that are safe to consume and the disproportionate environmental and public health impacts on tribal populations such as CTUIR.

Please submit your experiences (successes/challenges) and tribal-specific documents to share on our website using the attached form:
 Case Study template






EPA's Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for PCBs: Reassessment of Use Authorizations:
 View document


O’Reilly, Talbot & Okun Associates Blog: EPA Issues Major Reinterpretation on Excluded PCB Products, posted on April 9, 2013 by Jim Okun (2pp):
 View document

EPA Summary and Response to Comments on: PCBs; Recycling Plastics from Shredder Residue; Request for Public Comments, Dec 12, 2012, 7-pages:
 View document

The following documents are comments submitted in response to the 2010 ANPRM that may be of interest to tribes.

Statement by Anjali Kochar, member of the NYC PCB-Free Schools Coalition:
 View document

Alaska Village Electric Cooperative, providing reliable electrical service to their customers through the extreme winter months of Alaska. AVEC’s comments reflect their concerns that parts of the NPRM could result in regulations that negatively affect their ability to provide reliable and cost effective power.
 View document

San Francisco Regional Water Control Board, with the responsibility for enhancing and maintaining the water quality of the San Francisco Estuary and many hundreds of rivers, creeks, and lakes. Documented that PCB releases from uncontained spills and outdated products are the largest ongoing sources of PCBs in their waterways.
 View document

Environmental Working Group's summary of the latest research on the adverse effects of PCBs on the health of people and the environment.
 View document

Fred Krieger's comments on the possible expansion of the rulemaking to address the current PCB reservoirs and other significant sources of PCB releases.
 View document

Inland Empire Paper Company, the Spokane Riverkeeper, and The Lands Council comments on the allowed exclusions for the use of pigments and inks to conatin PCB concentrations up to 50 ppm.
 View document

New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health's comments on the issue of PCB-containing caulks and paints, which works closely on environmental and occupational safety and health issues with unions that represent teachers, school maintenance workers, and contractors, all of whom are potentially impacted by exposure to PCB-containing caulks and paints.
 View document

State of New York Department of Health comments on concern about PCBs in building materials such as caulk.
 View document

Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, Department of Natural Resources comments on the reconsideration of the use of the 50 ppm level for excluded products, asking EPA to reduce the level to zero and supporting the elimination of PCBs from all dyes, pigments, and inks.
 View document

The Washington State Department of Ecology comments on the continued exposure of PCBs to people and wildlife.
 View document







Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs); Reassessment of Use Authorizations summary of priority rulemakings and priority retrospective reviews of existing regulation.


Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs); Reassessment of Use Authorizations Docket Folder with Public Comments!docketDetail;D=EPA-HQ-OPPT-2009-0757

Regulatory Information by Topic

EPA Tribal Consultation Opportunities

EPA Consultation: Revising Current Use Authorizations for PCBs – Rulemaking Effort oita/ tconsultation .nsf/ x /AEC7A 4599 E0D1F D4852 57C1 D00 711 9CB ?open document

EPA OPPT's 2011/2012 Tribal Consultation Materials on Cadmium, Formaldehyde, PCBs, and Lead




Webinars & Videos


EPA’s Regulatory Framework for Inadvertently Generated PCBs Under the Toxic Substance Control Act, 17-slides October 2013.






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