On October 5, 2022, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced its intent to streamline the review process of mixed metal oxides (MMOs).  MMOs are a key component in lithium-ion batteries, which are used in electric vehicles and other clean energy initiatives, including in semi-conductors, and renewable energy generation and storage, such as in solar cells and wind power turbines.  

Under section 5 of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), manufacturers of MMOs are required to provide EPA with notice by submitting a Premanufacture Notice (PMN).  The EPA is then required to fully assess all the potential hazards and exposures of the new chemical substance, to determine whether it presents an unreasonable risk to human health or the environment and take steps to address that risk before it can enter the market.

EPA’s streamlined New Chemicals Program will allow the EPA to assess MMOs before they enter the marketplace in a more efficient process, allowing the EPA to push the approvals of the substances which are key to electric vehicle batteries.

This updated review process follows the Biden administrations’ major investments in the domestic production of key critical minerals and materials used in clean energy technologies, as well as its reforms in the federal permitting process aimed at easing supply-chain constraints of key critical minerals.

The effort also supports President Biden’s agenda to tackle the climate crisis and promote the adoption of electric vehicles and clean energy initiatives.  There are incentives attached to clean energy under the Inflation Reduction Act, including tax credits for electric vehicles.  And, as we previously highlighted in our coverage of the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) Formula Program, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law has established NEVI to provide funding to States to help with the strategic deployment of a national network of 500,000 electric vehicle charging stations by 2030.

Assistant Administrator for the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, Michal Freedhoff, said that “[s]treamlining [the] review of new chemical substances that make up electric vehicle batteries and that can be used in other vital emerging markets will allow manufacturers to super-charge production, bolstering our economy and advancing the Biden-Harris Administration’s goals to protect the environment and combat the climate crisis.”

The EPA has also released additional information on the Integrated Approach to the New Chemicals Review, accompanied by a Compliance Advisory, both of which reaffirm that MMOs are chemical substances subject to TSCA, and that anyone who plans to manufacture or import MMOs that are not on the TSCA Inventory, must comply with section 5’s new chemical requirements and implementing regulations.