Regulatory Developments

EPA Publishes 2020 Mercury Inventory Report, Enhancing Transparency of Data

March 31, 2020 PRINT

On March 30, 2020, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published the 2020 Mercury Inventory Report on the supply, use, and trade of mercury in the United States. The report presents aggregated data submitted on imported mercury, mercury manufactured in the United States, imported mercury-added products, mercury-added products made in the United States, and mercury used in manufacturing processes. The inventory report also provides a broad view of U.S. mercury stored, sold, and exported, as well as industry sectors and countries involved in the supply, use, and trade of mercury. EPA has posted a pre-publication version of the Federal Register notice announcing the availability of the 2020 report.

Background

On June 27, 2018, EPA published in the Federal Register a final mercury inventory reporting rule regarding reporting requirements for applicable persons to provide information to assist in the preparation of an “inventory of mercury supply, use, and trade in the United States,” where “mercury” is defined as “elemental mercury” and “a mercury compound” (mercury). Section 8(b)(10)(B) of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), as amended by the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act (Lautenberg Act), directs that “[n]ot later than April 1, 2017, and every 3 years thereafter, the Administrator shall carry out and publish” in the Federal Register such an inventory. The final rule applies to any person who manufactures (including imports) mercury or mercury-added products or otherwise intentionally uses mercury in a manufacturing process (including processes traditionally not subject to TSCA, such as for the manufacture of pharmaceuticals and pesticides).

The reporting requirements include activities that are established TSCA terms, including manufacture, import, distribution in commerce, storage, and export. The reporting requirements also apply to the otherwise intentional use of mercury in a manufacturing process. Persons who manufacture (including import) mercury or mercury-added products, or otherwise intentionally use mercury in a manufacturing process, are required to report amounts of mercury in pounds (lbs) used in such activities during a designated reporting year. Reporters must also identify specific mercury compounds, mercury-added products, manufacturing processes, and how mercury is used in manufacturing processes, as applicable, from preselected lists. For certain activities, reporters must provide additional, contextual data (e.g., North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) codes for mercury or mercury-added products distributed in commerce).

The final reporting requirements do not apply to: persons who do not first manufacture, import, or otherwise intentionally use mercury; persons who only generate, handle, or manage mercury-containing waste; persons who only manufacture mercury as an impurity; and persons engaged in activities involving mercury not with the purpose of obtaining an immediate or eventual commercial advantage. Within the category of persons who must report, there are certain persons who are not required to provide specific data elements. To avoid reporting that is unnecessary or duplicative, the final rule includes certain exemptions for persons who already report for mercury and mercury-added products to the TSCA Section 8(a) Chemical Data Reporting (CDR) rule and the Interstate Mercury Education and Reduction Clearinghouse (IMERC) Mercury-Added Products Database, respectively.

2020 Report

This 2020 report is the first report in which the supply, use, and trade of mercury is presented based on data collected by EPA under the final mercury inventory reporting rule. Persons subject to the reporting requirements submitted information directly to EPA via the Mercury Electronic Reporting (MER) application, which is organized as a fill-in-the-blanks form with drop-down menus and lists of check-box options. The deadline for reporting mercury information to EPA was July 1, 2019, for reporting activities that occurred in the calendar year 2018, and the inventory collection and reporting cycle will continue every three years thereafter to inform future inventories. EPA states that given the divergent information collection methods between the 2017 and the 2020 inventories, the 2020 report intentionally does not draw any comparisons between the initial 2017 inventory and the information reported in the 2020 report. EPA expects to be able to provide such comparisons no later than the 2023 inventory report.

The reporting activities described in the 2020 report include:

  • Imported mercury;
     
  • Mercury manufactured in the United States;
     
  • Imported products;
     
  • Products made in the United States (including certain assembled products); and
     
  • Mercury used in a manufacturing process other than for manufacturing mercury-added products or mercury compounds (hereafter referred to as “use in a manufacturing process”).
     

Generally, under each reporting activity, EPA collected the following information in support of the inventory report:

  • Amount of mercury manufactured, imported, stored, used, sold, or exported;
     
  • Types of products made;
     
  • Types of manufacturing processes and how mercury was functionally used;
     
  • Business sectors, or industries, to which mercury or mercury-added products were sold;
     
  • Country of origin of imported mercury or mercury-added products; and
     
  • Destination country for exported mercury (mercury compounds only) or mercury-added products.
     

EPA received a total of 99 individual submissions for reporting year 2018. EPA notes that the reporting application allows for reporters to provide information on multiple reporting activities within one submission. As a result, according to EPA, a total of 117 activities were reported among the 99 individual submissions. The table below illustrates the breakdown of the five reporting activities and the percent of reports received for each activity.

Type of Reporter Reported Activities Amount (lbs)
Mfr’d/
Imp’d/
Used
Stored Distributed Exported
Elemental Mercury Mercury Manufacturer or Importer 4 72,614 105,355 72,103 0
Product Manufacturer or Importer 43 21,528 N/A 8,546 3,867
Use in a Manufacturing Process 8 540,538 45,210 N/A N/A
Mercury Compound Mercury Manufacturer or Importer 5 457 1,382 1,393 148
Product Manufacturer or Importer 51 3,364 N/A 441 2,052
Use in a Manufacturing Process 6 34 213 N/A N/A
Total Mercury Manufacturer or Importer 9 73,071 106,737 73,496 148
Product Manufacturer or Importer 94 24,892 N/A 8,987 5,919
Use in a Manufacturing Process 14 540,572 45,423 0 0

The 2020 report provides the following summary of the amount of elemental mercury, mercury compounds, and total mercury for each reporting activity and contextual detail (e.g., amount stored, distributed, and exported) as it pertains to supply, use, and trade.

Supply, Use, and Trade of Mercury Elemental Mercury (lbs) Mercury Compounds (lbs) Total (lbs)
Supply Mercury Manufactured in the United States 72,614 209 72,823
Stored On-site (max) 150,565 1,410 151,975
Stored Off-site (max) 0 185 185
Use Mercury Sold in the United States 72,103 1,393 73,496
Products Made in the United States 19,980 1,907 21,887
Products Sold in the United States 8,546 441 8,987
Mercury Used in a Manufacturing Process 540,538 34 540,572
Trade Imported Mercury 0 248 248
Imported Products 1,548 1,457 3,005
Exported Mercury 0 148 148
Exported Products 3,867 2,052 5,919

EPA also reports that, through this effort, it identified a number of previously unrecognized uses of mercury. These uses include five manufacturing processes and about ten newly identified mercury-containing products.

Recommended Actions

After identifying processes and products that intentionally add mercury, the Lautenberg Act directs EPA to make recommendations for actions to reduce mercury use further. EPA states that it will carefully consider the reporting results in light of such factors as quantities of use and availability of safer, cost-effective alternatives and, as appropriate, “will not hesitate to recommend future legal or regulatory actions in accordance with the statute.” In addition, EPA will continue to implement U.S. obligations under the Minamata Convention on Mercury and to participate in the UNEP Global Mercury Partnership, both of which are designed to reduce the adverse effects of mercury.

According to the 2020 report, based on information received, as well as feedback from reporters, EPA is considering the following actions that would enhance the administration of the mercury inventory and the MER application:

  • Amending regulatory text of the mercury inventory reporting rule to complement expected changes in the forthcoming CDR program amendments;
     
  • Improving the level of detail for imported, manufactured, distributed, and exported products and mercury compounds (e.g., amending the reporting form to allow for reporters to provide a greater level of detail on such contextual information); and
     
  • Continuing to coordinate with IMERC and directly comparing/contrasting information received via EPA’s reporting application.
     

Commentary

We commend EPA for successfully meeting the statutory deadline for publishing the 2020 Mercury Inventory Report. As noted by EPA, the publication of the report represents the completion of a suite of mandates related to elemental mercury and mercury compounds required by the Lautenberg amendments to TSCA.

  • In June 2018, EPA published the mercury inventory reporting rule, which established the reporting requirements that would support the 2020 and subsequent triennial inventories.

The report contains a wealth of information about the supply, use, and trade of mercury and mercury-containing compounds and products in the United States, including, notably, a number of previously unrecognized uses of mercury.

Concerning the recommended actions cited in the 2020 Mercury Inventory Report, we note EPA’s consideration of amendments to the mercury inventory reporting rule to complement expected changes in the forthcoming CDR program amendments; improvements to the level of detail for reporting on products and mercury compounds; and continued coordination with IMERC and directly comparing and contrasting information received through EPA’s reporting application. We believe these activities will facilitate more efficient implementation of the mercury inventory, including making available better information to EPA and the public.

Finally, we appreciate why EPA, given the divergent information collection methods between the 2017 and 2020 inventories, was not able to offer a comparative analysis of the situation in the 2020 report. We look forward to seeing such an analysis in the 2023 report.


 
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