Proposed federal legislation to tighten the Toxic Substances Control Act has drawn fire from the American Coatings Association and the American Chemistry Council.
Reps. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) introduced the "Toxic Chemicals Safety Act of 2010" (H.R. 5820) on July 22, despite industry concerns registered earlier over the discussion draft.
The 166-page proposal would be the first-ever revision of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) of 1976, the primary statute governing the safety of chemicals in commerce. A discussion draft of the bill was released April 15.
“The introduction of this legislation marks a major step forward in our efforts to bring to current industry standards an important statute that, once it becomes law, will permanently shine the bright light of public disclosure on a range of chemicals that consumers encounter in a diverse array of products they use each and every day,” said Rush, whose subcommittee has jurisdiction over TSCA enforcement.
Waxman called the measure “long overdue” and said it would “protect public health and the environment while promoting American jobs and innovation.”
“Under this legislation, all chemicals will be reviewed for safety; dangerous chemicals will be restricted or eliminated; and new, safer chemicals will be developed more rapidly to move our economy toward a sustainable future,” said Waxman.
In 2009, the Government Accountability Office named TSCA a “high-risk” priority and one of the areas most in need of broad reform.
The bill, as described by the Committee on Energy and Commerce:
• Establishes a framework to ensure that all chemical substances to which the American people are exposed will be reviewed for safety and restricted where necessary to protect public health and the environment.
• Requires the chemical industry to develop and provide to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) essential data, and improves EPA’s authority to compel testing where necessary.
• Ensures that non-confidential information submitted to EPA is shared with the public and that critical confidential information is shared among regulators, with states, and with workers in the chemical industry.
• Establishes an expedited process for EPA to reduce exposure to chemical substances that are known to be persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic.
• Creates incentives and a review process for safer alternatives to existing chemicals, promoting innovation and investment in green chemistry.
• Allows EPA to exempt chemicals already known to be safe from requirements of the Act.
• Directs EPA to address community exposures to toxic chemicals in certain “hot spot” locations.
• Requires EPA to engage in international efforts to control dangerous chemicals.
Environmental organizations have praised the bill, while the coatings and chemical industries have registered concern.
The American Coatings Association strongly opposes the legislation, saying it would “put in place a vastly different regime that places significant additional burdens — not just on the chemical industry, but all of product manufacturing and distribution, as well as public utilities and service providers.”
In an article on its web site, ACA said the proposals presented “serious challenges” to the industry.
“As written, and unlike the current chemicals management requirements in the United States, the legislative proposal:
• Extends broad new requirements for chemical mixtures (including paint and coatings products), articles and finished goods;
• Provides none of the exemptions for chemicals and chemical products previously considered safe for intended use (i.e., polymers, R&D materials); and
• Provides no protection for confidential business information (CBI).”
“In short,” ACA said, “the proposed legislation remains problematic despite considerable efforts on the part of all stakeholders to promote ways to integrate needed improvements. ACA believes the requirements the legislation seeks to put in place are shortsighted and will not meet the stated goals.”
The American Chemistry Council has also expressed opposition. In prepared remarks for a subcommittee hearing on the legislation July 29, ACC president and CEO Cal Dooley urged lawmakers to amend the bill. Dooley said changes were needed to enhance public safety, preserve the ability of industry to innovate, and protect American jobs.
"My simple request is that we recognize that chemicals management is an extremely complex undertaking that affects the entire American economy, and there is much more work that needs to be done," Dooley said.
Dooley said the bill "creates additional burdens that do not contribute to and, in fact, detract from making advances in safety, while coming up short with respect to promoting innovation and protecting American jobs."
He specifically called into question the safety standard in the bill, as well as its treatment of new chemical innovations, and its approach to the safety of imported products.
"We firmly believe that you can develop legislation that ensures safety while promoting innovation and protection jobs," he concluded.
Energy and Commerce Committee Ranking Member Joe Barton, R-Texas, has also criticized the measure, saying it “radically changes TSCA.” Disputing the EPA's characterization of the bill as “a model federal law,” Barton said: “It sets a state safety standard that probably could not be made. It changes the burden of proof. It is 170 degrees in its change in direction from the current law, which is, in my opinion, working well.”
The text of H.R. 5820, the Toxic Chemicals Safety Act of 2010 is available, as is a Summary of the Toxic Chemicals Safety Act of 2010 and a Section –by-Section Summary of the Toxic Chemicals Safety Act of 2010. In addition, ACA recently completed a detailed Issue Backgrounder for its members.