Big Senate Fight Set on TSCA Reform

Many parties are jostling for advantage as two competing bills are moving.

Pending bills to reform the Toxic Substances Control Act are now at the top of Congress' list. The U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 2576 by a vote of 398-1 last week, and the U.S. Senate will now consider its own version of TSCA reform, S. 697. Many contenting organizations are invested in this contest, from the International Association of Fire Fighters to the big chemical trade associations and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

The law gives EPA authority to restrict chemicals in commerce, and virtually all parties believe it is out of date and ineffective. IAFF reports firefighters who are exposed to multiple toxic substances on a daily basis want to ban and regulate toxic chemicals, such as flame retardants. But the chemical industry for the most part is resisting such changes.

IAFF considers the House bill to be superior to the Senate's bill because the House bill does not preempt state actions until the EPA issues a final determination on the safety of a chemical. "The Senate bill, however, establishes a complicated preemption process which would preempt state actions on certain chemicals during the EPA’s review of such chemicals," according to IAFF.

The American Chemistry Council is another player in this drama. ACC applauded the House vote on the "TSCA Modernization Act of 2015" and previously laid out its policy on TSCA reform:

  • TSCA modernization must place protecting public health as its highest priority, including consideration of safety for children.
  • Modernization must derive from core principles, including making sure chemicals are safe for intended use; making sure safety decisions are cost effective and expeditious; prioritizing chemicals to determine which substances warrant additional review and assessment; utilizing all reliable information; and making safety information public while protecting intellectual property.
  • To ensure confidence in safety regulations, EPA's decisions must be based on a strong scientific framework that uses modern technology, proven safety testing methods, and high-quality data.
  • EPA's program that approves new chemicals enables innovation in American chemistry by evaluating safety information, requiring testing to fill any information gaps, and protecting intellectual property works well and must be retained.
  • While the United States should learn from other jurisdictions, Congress must not jump to conclusions about the appropriateness of other chemicals management systems for the United States. For example, the European Union's REACH program is often cited as a model, but its effectiveness has yet to be proven. Canada's approach to prioritization and review may provide an effective model for some changes to TSCA.
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