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Landmark Chemical Bill May Revamp TSCA

Friday, June 7, 2013

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After nearly four decades, chemical makers and environmental groups may be ready to agree on new federal legislation overhauling the nation's chief chemical safety law.

New bipartisan legislation championed by the late Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) aims to take greater action on dangerous chemicals, requiring more testing before they are allowed on the market.

The "Chemical Safety Improvement Act of 2013" (S. 1009) was unveiled May 22 by Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) and has already gained the support of paint and coating makers, chemical manufacturers, and environmentalists.

Updating the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act, the new measure would allow the Environmental Protection Agency to require safety testing on chemicals now on the market. Current law allows EPA to require testing only if there is evidence that a chemical is dangerous.

Chemical Safety Improvement Act

A new bipartisan bill would change current law to allow EPA to test all chemicals, not just those already deemed dangerous.

Lautenberg, a five-time U.S. Senator from New Jersey, died Monday (June 3) at the age of 89 from complications of viral pneumonia. Lautenberg, who first introduced legislation to reform TSCA in 2005, was the oldest member of the Senate.

His death leaves a vacancy that will be filled by an appointment from New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

84,000 Chemicals; 200 Tests; 5 Bans

The legislation would, for the first time, ensure that all chemicals are tested for safety to protect public health and the environment, while also continuing to create jobs, the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment & Public Works said in a release.

"... 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 [the Toxic Substances Control Act] was first enacted in 1976," the senators said in a statement.

Differing from the existing law, the act would:

  • Require safety evaluations for all active chemicals in commerce, labeling them as either "high" or "low" priority based on potential risk to human health and the environment;
  • Give EPA authority to take action—from labeling requirements to a full phase-out or ban—if a chemical is found to be unsafe;
  • Prioritize chemicals for review;
  • Screen new chemicals for safety and authorize EPA to prohibit unsafe chemicals from entering the market;
  • Provide a clear path to getting new chemistry on the market and protect trade secrets and intellectual property from disclosure;
  • Require EPA to evaluate risks posed to "vulnerable populations," such as children and pregnant women; and
  • Give states and local governments the opportunity to provide input on prioritization, safety assessment, and the safety determination process, requiring a timely response from EPA and establishing a waiver process to allow state regulations or laws to remain in effect when warranted.

Bipartisan Boost

TSCA has been the focus of several overhaul efforts over the years, but all have fallen short. This time, however, the bill has gained support from diverse groups.

"This bipartisan agreement is an historic step toward meaningful reform that protects American families and consumers," Lautenberg said last month.

Toxic Substances Control Act
U.S. Senate Committee on Environment & Public Works

Under the current law, EPA has  been able to ban only five dangerous substances since 1976, Sens. Lautenberg and Vitter said in a statement.

Vitter said the bill "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."

The chemical industry and environmentalists also voiced rare agreement in supporting the bill.

Both the American Coatings Association and the American Chemistry Council released statements applauding the proposed legislation.

"ACA is pleased that the new legislation takes a balanced, workable approach to chemicals management that will protect the public without impeding innovation or disrupting the flow of goods in commerce," said Andy Doyle, ACA president and CEO.

Doyle added, "We remain committed to working with interested stakeholders to help promote TSCA modernization in the Senate."

ACC's president and CEO Cal Dooley said, "At a time when the chemical industry is driving a national manufacturing renaissance, a sensible, strong and workable bipartisan solution to modernize TSCA as laid out in the CSIA is more important than ever, not only for our industry, but for the countless others that rely on chemical products. We stand committed to work with the Senate to ensure passage of this compromise legislation."

The senior scientist for the Environmental Defense Fund, Richard Denison, said, "This bill is both a policy and a 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."

Cosponsors Grow

The bill is co-sponsored by Sens. 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).

After it was introduced, the bill gained four additional co-sponsors: Sens. Tom Harkin (D-IA), Patty Murray (D-WA), Mark Begich (D-AK), and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK).


Tagged categories: American Coatings Association (ACA); Coatings manufacturers; Construction chemicals; Environmental Control; EPA; Government; Health & Safety; Health and safety; Laws and litigation; Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS)

Comment from Jim Johnson, (6/7/2013, 10:04 AM)

This would be an excellent project to put on hold for several years until we get the current totally out of control government reined in. The current rules are working so there is no crisis. At every turn,from virtually every government agency, we are seeing illegal and immoral conduct daily! It seems each day it gets worse and the last thing we should do is even consider giving these politicians something more to overreach with. Every poll shows the people absolutely do NOT trust the government or the politicians that supposedly run it (supposedly on our behalf). Before taking on any new projects of the size and scope which this article covers we first need to stop where we are and clean house of the current illegal and immoral activities and those who have perpetrated them.

Comment from Mark Anater, (6/7/2013, 11:29 AM)

It has always been thus, Jim Johnson. If we waited for every government worker to pass a moral purity test before passing new laws and regulations, nothing would ever be done. That may please the libertarians out there, but the rest of us want a functional government that does useful things, like keep dangerous chemicals out of the marketplace and the environment.

Comment from Jim Johnson, (6/11/2013, 11:35 AM)

Mark, our legislators have not always been steeped in illegal activity, such as we currently see in our government with the IRS targeting people and groups, the intentional illegal activity of the ATF in their gun running, the treasonous activity that went on in Benghazi, the intentional targeting of the press and targeting of whistle blowers, and the list goes on and on. Yes, we want a functional government, one which operates legally and does not exceed its Constitutional bounds. Yes, we want that, but that is no where near what we have today. We have agencies making illegal regulation, agencies acting in vengeance upon individuals and groups, agencies breaking the law and no one facing criminal charges, and the list goes on and on. DC is totally rotten and there is hardly a member of Congress who is trusted or is trustworthy! Only 18% of the people approve of Congress or trust them. As for morality, the IRS spending 4 million of our tax dollars on a conference in this poor economy is immoral in my book. As for morality and our legislators, I do not think anyone expects puritans, but should we accept child molesters? Just where does one draw the line on immoral conduct? Are you willing to have a rapist represent you with his good judgement in Congress? As for news laws and regulations just how many do we really need, really? Personally I think if Congress met for 90 days a year that would be plenty. We need less government in our lives, not more. I cannot comment on libertarians as I do not know any.

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