President Obama has signed a bill that updates the 40-year Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) into law after Congress approved the bill after months of negotiations to reconcile measures passed by each chamber last year.
The Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act (HR 2576) took effect with the President’s signature.
Despite criticism from some environmental groups that claim the bill is a concession to the chemicals industry, the measure has bipartisan support and backing from a wide array of industry and advocacy groups.
A statement by Senator Tom Udall (D–New Mexico), a co-author of the Senate’s bill, says the existing TSCA “was broken from the start”, and rendered “virtually useless” by a 1991 court ruling that blocked EPA’s ban of asbestos.
According to Sen. Udall, “passage of this bill in the Senate means that for the first time in 40 years, the United States of America will have a chemical safety law that works.”
“The Lautenberg Act is long overdue, as it is the first major environmental reform to be enacted in over a quarter century,” said Senator Jim Inhofe (R–Oklahoma), chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.
Senator David Vitter (R–Louisiana) added, “After four decades of living under a stagnant chemical safety law, I am so very glad to have passed a law that strengthens our country’s international competitiveness, provides desperately needed regulatory certainty for industry, and mandates that the federal government use better science and provide more transparency.”
As outlined in analyses by the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) and by the House Committee of jurisdiction, the new law will:
● Establish a health-based safety standard;
● Require the EPA to assess the risk of existing chemicals under “judicially enforceable deadlines” without consideration of cost. This process will include identification of substances on the market, designation of low and high priorities, risk evaluation of high-priority substances, and restrictions for those that present an unreasonable risk;
● Remove the existing statute’s mandate that the EPA implement “least burdensome” regulatory requirements and mandate that the EPA make “an affirmative safety finding” before allowing a new substance on the market, under a 90-day review period (which may be extended to 180 days);
● Increase the EPA’s authority to order testing, with a requirement to “reduce and replace animal testing where scientifically reliable alternatives exist”;
● Trigger an EPA review of all past confidential business information (CBI) claims, and require substantiation of approved claims after ten years;
● Limit state authority to restrict substances that are undergoing EPA review, have been found by the agency not to pose unreasonable risk, or are subject to federal risk management, unless they seek a waiver. States’ authority to require reporting and monitoring are preserved, and chemical restrictions enacted prior to April 22, 2016 are ‘grandfathered’ in.
● Calls for identification and protection of most vulnerable populations;
● Requires science-based decisions, founded on weight of evidence (WoE); and
● Collects fees on new and existing chemicals that go directly to the EPA.
● Lawmakers have said that they will closely oversee the EPA’s implementation of the law.
The Lautenberg Act will require EPA to complete several formal rulemaking actions in the first year such as establishing processes for prioritization, risk evaluation and “resetting” the inventory of chemicals in commerce. It also requires the agency to work on risk evaluations for at least ten chemicals or substances, within the next six months. Additional guidance documents, policies and activities prescribed by the law must also be completed during this period.