A bipartisan Senate bill to reform the outdated Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) “presents an immediate threat” to California’s Safer Consumer Products Regulation according to Cal/EPA Secretary Matthew Rodriquez.
In a letter to senator Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), who has introduced her own TSCA reform bill in Congress, Rodriquez said the preemption provisions in the bipartisan bill (S 697) would “prevent California from fully implementing this important law”.
Regulators from California’s Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) will soon commence rulemaking for the first three priority products identified under the Safer Consumer Product Regulations.
The bipartisan TSCA reform bill, a reconstituted version of the Chemical Safety Improvement Act (CSIA) introduced in 2013, has 18 co-sponsors, nine of which are Democrats.
In his letter, Rodriquez warns that the measure would “eliminates state authority to enact new protections on the most dangerous chemicals, with no required timeline for federal protections.” He also argued that the legislation would eliminate “traditional and efficacious co-enforcement of health safeguards.”
Although the CSIA contains language that would preserve certain state laws, the general text is in conflict with other provisions that may have broad preemptive effects. “These conflicts would support the argument that state action is forbidden,” Secretary Rodriquez said, “even though certain sections allow such action, causing confusion in states over what is allowed.”
According to Rodriquez, Sen. Boxer’s legislation would preserve the states’ rights to pass and enforce chemical safety laws. Last year Boxer, then Chair of the EHW committee was a vocal opponent to preemption of state’s rights.
Secretary Rodriquez was not alone in his opposition to the CSIA. Six state attorneys
general have publicly opposed the measure, saying it expands “limitations on the ability of states to take appropriate action under state laws” to protect their citizens from risks posed by toxic chemicals.
The state attorneys general argue the measure would prevent states from acting on a chemical deemed by the US EPA to be a “high priority” for federal review, even before any federal restrictions are imposed.
“As a result a void would be created, where states would be prevented from acting to protect their citizens from those chemicals, even though federal restrictions may not be in place for many years.”
The letters were sent to both Sen. Boxer and Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman James Inhofe (R-OK).
The attorneys general representing New York, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Oregon and Washington, say the bill also eliminates the co-enforcement provision in current law that allows states to adopt and enforce state restrictions that are identical to federal regulations and would eliminate a provision allowing states to ban in-state use of hazardous chemicals.
Preemption of state chemical laws and enforcement remain the most controversial and hotly contested components of TSCA reform efforts in recent years.