The prospect of reforming the 1970s-era Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) before the end of the 113th Congress have vanished, according to Senate staffers involved in the negotiations.
Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) the ranking Republican on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee had been negotiating with Sen. Tom Udall, (D-NM), since last year on a compromise draft to address concerns raised by Committee Chair Barbara Boxer (D-CA) who chairs the Environment and Public Works Committee.
But the compromise draft submitted by Vitter and Udall “still falls short of the changes needed to improve on current law,” Boxer said in a statement.
Boxer released her version of the bill complete with extensive revisions along with a scathing critique of Vitter’s draft revision.
Boxer criticized the Vitter draft for making it easy for EPA to exempt chemicals from regulation while preventing states from taking any actions to protect their citizens.
“The draft requires EPA to initially list only ten chemicals as ‘high priority’ – the designation that triggers a safety review – and to label more chemicals as high priority only as reviews of those ten are completed, Boxer said. “With the timetable in the bill, that means that five years from now, the public may have information on only ten more chemicals than it does today. And regulations would not have to be put in place for those chemicals for another two years after that, and EPA could determine that none of them requires regulation,” Boxer added.
There are approximately 62,000 chemicals in commerce that were grandfathered by TSCA in the 1970s without an evaluation by EPA.
But the main point of contention in the negotiations remains language in the draft that would preempt state chemical laws.
Boxer contends the draft would allow EPA to “unilaterally exempt large numbers of chemicals from federal and state review or regulation without any recourse,” stripping the states authority to enact and enforce state laws, while not providing EPA with the resources necessary to undertake an effective chemical safety program.
“TSCA reform must provide greater public health protections than we have today. Real TSCA reform will protect our most vulnerable populations like pregnant women, infants and children. National standards must incorporate these basic principles while allowing states to strengthen safeguards for their citizens. State laws often lead to benefits nationwide as consumers and industry react to standards and information generated at the state level,” Boxer said following the release of her counter-proposal.
Boxer’s proposed revisions to the bill would eliminate language that would preempt state and local regulations.
Boxer’s proposal would also change the “unreasonable risk or harm to human health or the environment” standard to a standard where a chemical must “not pose harm to human health or the environment.”
Predictably, environmental advocates and opponents to the sweeping federal preemption contemplated in S. 1009 applauded Boxer’s proposal while industry groups criticized it.
David Goldston, director of Government Affairs at the Natural Resources Defense Council said:
“The draft developed by Senators Vitter and Udall is a significant improvement over the bill that was originally introduced, but still has fatal flaws. For example, it would still allow EPA unilaterally, sweepingly, and with little analysis, to exempt large numbers of chemicals from both federal and state regulation. That would not protect public health.
“Senator Boxer’s draft includes thoughtful approaches to addressing many of the remaining issues and the progress so far shows that a compromise ought to be reachable.
“We look forward to continuing to work with all interested parties to develop a final measure that would improve current law and truly protect the public from dangerous chemicals. The discussions ought to continue.”
“We were very disappointed that efforts to move the Udall-Vitter compromise forward with broad bipartisan support were undermined by Senator Boxer and aggressive lobbying by the trial lawyers and the Natural Resources Defense Council. It was a workable, pragmatic compromise,” American Chemistry Council (ACC) vice president of communications Anne Kolton said.
“Such a piece of legislation is a rare accomplish-ment these days, and it’s unfortunate that Senator Boxer and others seem more interested in maintaining the status quo than supporting a bipartisan compromise,” Kolton added.
Boxer Counter-Proposal – Part 1 and Part 2.