Thursday, July 29, 2010

Dems, GOP & Interests Far Apart On TSCA Reform

Jul 29: The House Energy & Commerce Committee, Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade, and Consumer Protection, held a hearing on H.R. 5820, the "Toxic Chemicals Safety Act of 2010," The legislation, introduced last week by Representatives Bobby Rush (D-IL), Chairman of the Subcommittee, and Henry Waxman (R-CA), Chairman of the full committee [See WIMS 7/23/10]. The bill would amend the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976 to ensure that the public and the environment are protected from risks resulting from chemical exposure.
    Witnesses testifying at the hearing included: Steve Owens, Assistant Administrator, Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, U.S. EPA; Richard Denison, Ph.D., Senior Scientist, Environmental Defense Fund; Calvin M. Dooley, President and Chief Executive Officer, American Chemistry Council; Construction Specialties, Inc.; Connecticut Coalition for Environmental Justice; Beth Bosley, Society of Chemical Manufacturers and Affiliates, Inc.; and Ken Cook, President, Environmental Working Group.
    Chairman Waxman, in an opening statement said, "This statute has been fundamentally unchanged for 34 years. When it has been amended, it is with new titles that address discrete issues and bypass the unworkable structure of the current law. TSCA has become a patchwork, not a framework. . . The result is that the U.S. is not leading the global move towards safer chemicals. Americans' public health is not being protected. And American businesses are behind the curve when they should be leading the world in innovative and safe chemical development."
    He said, "This bill will address the failures of TSCA and set up a flexible, responsive, and workable system for protecting health and the environment while promoting American jobs and innovation. Under this legislation, all chemicals will be subject to a safety review, and the burden of proof will be rightly shifted from EPA to chemical manufacturers. Basic safety data will be generated and made public. Commercial users of chemicals will get the information they need to make better business decisions. New policies will encourage the development of safer chemicals and create the green jobs of tomorrow."
    Full Committee Ranking Member, Joe Barton (R-TX) said in a statement, "As drafted, this bill would have sweeping ramifications for our economy. By regulating all entities that make, process, sell, or dispose of anything with a chemical in it, including consumer goods, it directly impacts every business, every home and every person in America and shuffles every level of a nationwide manufacturing economy that was struggling even before the recession drove unemployment to nearly 10 percent.
    Rep. Barton list four reasons why "I am so troubled by this legislation. First, the testing requirements in the bill are so over the top that they remind me of the same mistakes made in the toy bill. . . Secondly, the current administrator of the EPA says the current program dealing with new chemicals is a model program. Yet, this bill overhauls that model program and makes it harder instead of easier to get newer, safer products to consumers. . . "Thirdly, the so-called safety standard is neither safe nor standard because it is so impractical. . . Finally, the pre-emption provisions in the bill are just irresponsible. It incentivizes states to enact conflicting laws, which will only undermine the national marketplace and make products more expensive for everybody."
    Rep. Barton concluded, "Mr. Chairman, I think this bill is unworkable. I am open to being convinced otherwise by our witnesses, but that's going to be a steep order. Americans don't want unsafe chemicals. They also don't want feckless regulations that kill their jobs and make life harder. The federal government has a blind spot for how ordinary Americans live and knack for making it tougher on them through well-intentioned bills like this one."
    EPA testified that, "The time has come to bring TSCA into the 21st Century and give the American people the protection from harmful chemicals they expect. . . TSCA fallen behind the industry it is intended to regulate, it has also proven an inadequate tool for providing the protection against chemical risks that the public rightfully expects. Mr. Chairman, the bill recently introduced by you and Chairman Waxman represents an important step toward providing greater protection for the health and safety of the American people, particularly our children. . .
    "This legislation would require that all chemicals be reviewed against a safety standard that appears to be based on sound science and reflects riskbased criteria protective of human health and the environment. It would squarely place the burden on industry to provide data to demonstrate that chemicals are safe. It would give EPA significantly greater authority to require any data necessary to assess the safety of chemicals and to quickly take action on chemicals which cause harm. . ."
    The American Chemistry Council (ACC) said, "Despite some improvements, there are still significant fundamental issues in the legislation that undermine its workability. . . There are many aspects of HR5820 that we feel need to be addressed. Today, I'd like to highlight three: the safety standard, the regulation of new chemicals and the regulation of products imported into the United States. . ." The Society of Chemical Manufacturers and Affiliates, Inc said, "On balance, however, we are sorry to say that the bill before us today is still overreaching and unworkable. It would have a substantial negative impact on a strategic American industry that is already fighting recession and foreign competition. . ."
    (EDF) said that many of the problems with TSCA and U.S. chemical regulation "would be largely or entirely ameliorated by adoption of the legislation. . . H.R. 5820, the Toxic Chemicals Safety Act of 2010.  It provides the framework for a comprehensive, systematic solution to a set of problems that until now have been addressed, if at all, through reactive, piecemeal actions. . .  In our view, H.R. 5820 strikes the right balance, by reforming TSCA first and foremost to fully protect human health and the environment (including the most vulnerable among us) . . ."
    Environmental Working Group (EWG) said, "H.R.5820, the Toxic Chemicals Safety Act of 2010, is essential to fixing our broken toxic chemicals policy." Will recommending further strengthening measures, EWG said, "We support H.R. 5820 and the steps Chairmen Rush and Waxman have taken to ensure a strong safety standard, mandate stronger EPA authority to put the burden on industry to show a chemical is safe before it goes on the market promote prioritization, require a minimum data set and address abuses of confidential business information claims."
    Access the hearing website for links to opening statements, testimony, background and a webcast (click here). Access the statement from Rep. Barton (click here). Access a release from Rush-Waxman and link to the full text, a summary and a section-by-section summary (click here). Access additional information and background (click here). Access legislative details for H.R. 5820 (click here).