Wednesday, May 22, 2013

"Groundbreaking, Bipartisan Agreement" To Modernize TSCA

May 22: U.S. Senators Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) and David Vitter (R-LA) announced what they called a "groundbreaking, bipartisan agreement" to modernize the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) and ensure the safety of everyday consumer products to better protect American families. The Senators said the legislation would significantly update and improve TSCA, which has proven ineffective and is criticized by both the public health community and industry. The Lautenberg-Vitter legislation would, for the first time, ensure that all chemicals are screened for safety to protect public health and the environment, while also creating an environment where manufacturers can continue to innovate, grow, and create jobs.

    The Lautenberg-Vitter "Chemical Safety Improvement Act of 2013" is co-sponsored by U.S. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Mike Crapo (R-ID), Richard Durbin (D-IL), Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Charles Schumer (D-NY), James Inhofe (R-OK), Tom Udall (D-NM), Susan Collins (R-ME), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Joe Manchin (D-WV), John Boozman (R-AR), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), and John Hoeven (R-ND).
    Under current law, U.S. EPA can call for safety testing only after evidence surfaces demonstrating a chemical may be dangerous. As a result, EPA has only been able to require testing for roughly 200 of the more than 84,000 chemicals currently registered in the United States, and has been able to ban only five dangerous substances since TSCA was first enacted in 1976. These shortfalls led the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to identify TSCA as a "high risk" area of the law in 2009.

    Senator Lautenberg, who first introduced legislation to reform TSCA in 2005 said, "This bipartisan agreement is an historic step toward meaningful reform that protects American families and consumers. Every parent wants to know that the chemicals used in everyday products have been proven safe, but our current chemical laws fail to give parents that peace of mind. Our bipartisan bill would fix the flaws with current law and ensure that chemicals are screened for safety." Senator Vitter, the Ranking Member of the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee said, "Our bill strikes the right balance between strengthening consumer confidence in the safety of chemicals, while also promoting innovation and the growth of an important sector of our economy. Chemical manufacturing is a big part of Louisiana's economy and across the country, and the Chemical Safety Improvement Act establishes a program that should provide confidence to the public and consumers, by giving the EPA the tools it needs to make critical determinations while providing a more transparent process. The benefit of such a system is that industry should also have more confidence that the federal system works to facilitate innovation and grow our economy." 

    Richard Denison, Senior Scientist, Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) said, "This bill is both a policy and political breakthrough. It gives EPA vital new tools to identify chemicals of both high and low concern, and to reduce exposure to those that pose risks. And while this bill represents a hard-fought compromise, it opens, at last, a bipartisan path forward to fix our badly outmoded system to ensure the safety of chemicals in everyday use." While supporting the bill, EDF also said, "There are some deficiencies in the legislation. . . The bill contains too few deadlines by which EPA needs to initiate and complete actions. Also, while EPA would be required to consider the heightened vulnerability of some subpopulations (including infants and children), EPA would have only limited means to address disproportionately high chemical exposures experienced by residents in many communities in America."

    Cal Dooley, President and CEO of the American Chemistry Council (ACC) said, "From life-saving medicines, to energy efficient build materials, chemistry is responsible for countless innovations that have transformed society. America's chemical industry is a critical source of economic growth and good-paying jobs across the country. Achieving sound, balanced TSCA reform that enhances public confidence in the safety of chemicals and enables America to remain the world's leading innovator is our top priority. This bipartisan compromise legislation will put safety first, while also promoting innovation, economic growth and job creation -- goals that are critical to our industry, to our nearly 800,000 employees and to the many other industries that rely on the products of chemistry. In particular, we appreciate the tremendous work of Senators Lautenberg and Vitter and their staffs to develop a solution that could garner support from both the environmental community and industry. Through their deep commitment to this issue, we now have a historic legislative opportunity that can be embraced by both sides of the aisle, an accomplishment all too rare in Washington today."

    According to a release from the Senators, in contrast to existing law, the Lautenberg-Vitter "Chemical Safety Improvement Act of 2013" would:
  • Require Safety Evaluations for All Chemicals: All active chemicals in commerce must be evaluated for safety and labeled as either "high" or "low" priority chemical based on potential risk to human health and the environment. For high priority chemicals, EPA must conduct further safety evaluations.
  • Protect Public Health from Unsafe Chemicals: If a chemical is found to be unsafe, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has the necessary authority to take action. This can range from labeling requirements to the full phase-out or ban of a chemical.
  • Prioritize Chemicals for Review: The Environmental Protection Agency will have to transparently assess risk, determine safety, and apply any needed measures to manage risks.
  • Screen New Chemicals for Safety: New chemicals entering the market must be screened for safety and the EPA is given the authority to prohibit unsafe chemicals from entering the market.
  • Secure Necessary Health and Safety Information: The legislation allows EPA to secure necessary health and safety information from chemical manufacturers, while directing EPA to rely first on existing information to avoid duplicative testing.
  • Promote Innovation and Safer Chemistry: This legislation provides clear paths to getting new chemistry on the market and protects trade secrets and intellectual property from disclosure.
  • Protect Children and Pregnant Women: The legislation requires EPA to evaluate the risks posed to particularly vulnerable populations, such as children and pregnant women, when evaluating the safety of a chemical-a provision not included in existing law.
  • Give States and Municipalities a Say: States and local governments will have the opportunity to provide input on prioritization, safety assessment and the safety determination processes, requiring timely response from EPA, and the bill establishes a waiver process to allow state regulations or laws to remain in effect when circumstances warrant it.
    Access a release from the Senators (click here). Access a separate release from ACC (click here). Access a separate release from EDF (click here). [#Toxics]
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