WASHINGTON — An online public forum was held last week by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) seeing input from those who would be affected by its proposed ban on most uses of perchloroethylene, also known as PCE or perc,
During the webinar (which will be available for replay at this link when processed, along with slides used during the presentation), Aug. 15, 2023 was announced as the deadline for written comments from the public on the subject.
This issue was brought to the spotlight when, In a statement issued on June 8, the EPA proposed a ban on perc. It’s used in many fields, such as petrochemical manufacturing and the aerospace industry. And, while its use has decreased over the years, perc is used as a solvent by many dry cleaners.
As it’s currently written, the proposed rule would phase out perc on different timelines for various industries, with the ban going into effect for most within 24 months of its passage.
For the drycleaning industry, businesses with older, third-generation drycleaning machines would have to stop using perc within three years and switch to alternative solvents. Cleaners with newer fourth- and fifth-generation equipment, which collects and stores perc more efficiently, would have 10 years to make the change.
This extended timeline for dry cleaners came about largely on the actions taken by the Drycleaning & Laundry Institute (DLI) and the National Cleaners Association (NCA). These organizations, understanding that this type of action has been discussed for years, were proactive and got involved in discussions with the EPA early on.
“Based on outreach, the EPA understands that most dry cleaners are small businesses that may need additional time to invest and acquire the equipment needed to transition to an alternative dry cleaning process or solvent,” says Kelly Summers, an EPA risk manager, during the webinar.
“Therefore, the EPA is proposing a longer phase-out period of 10 years to give dry cleaners a reasonable time to transition away from perc.”
Summers went on to describe the process the EPA took in determining the proposed deadline.
“In developing the phase-out timeframe of 10 years,” Summer says, “EPA considered precedents set by state regulations — for example, California and Minnesota’s prohibitions on dry cleaning — EPA’s dry cleaning national emission standards, and information provided by industry and state and local governments, such as that dry cleaning machines have a useful lifespan of about 15 to 25 years after the manufacturing when they’re maintained well, and that very few new perc machines have been produced or sold in the U.S. market in recent years.”
The fact that there are other accepted alternative solvents in use in the drycleaning industry also factored into the EPA decisions and timetables.
“Ultimately, the use of perc in dry cleaning is declining as machines are retired and alternatives are adopted,” she says. “We also understand that the demand for dry clean items has decreased as a result of the COVID pandemic, changes in clothing preferences and a variety of other factors. At the end of the 10-year phase-out period, EPA believes that very few perc machines will still be economically viable.”
The phase-out, Summers says, would start six months after the publication date of the final rule.
Written comments about the proposed ban and the timeline will be accepted until Aug. 15, 2023. “The EPA is very interested in hearing public input on the economic impact of this phase-out for dry cleaners,” Summers says.
The docket for this pending regulation is EPA-OPPT-2020-0720. Those wishing to submit their comments should visit https://www.regulations.gov/docket/EPA-HQ-OPPT-2020-0720.
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