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April 15, 2010

Senate and House TSCA Reform Legislation Released Today

Bergeson & Campbell, P.C.

Today Senator Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ) released the text of the Safe Chemicals Act of 2010, which is intended to address the “core failings” of TSCA.  Representatives Bobby Rush (D-IL) and Henry Waxman (D-CA) released a discussion draft of their legislation, the Toxics Chemicals Safety Act of 2010, and announced an aggressive schedule that seeks to complete action by “mid-summer.”

Lautenberg’s Safe Chemicals Act would:

  • Ensure EPA will have information on chemical hazards, uses, and exposures sufficient to judge a chemical’s safety.  The bill would require manufacturers to develop and submit a minimum data set for each chemical they produce.  Under the bill, EPA would have the authority to require more data it believes is necessary to determine the safety of a chemical;
  • Require EPA to use this information to categorize and prioritize chemicals, based on their hazard and exposure characteristics.  EPA would identify and prioritize chemicals by their likely risk, based on the anticipated use, production volume, toxicity, persistence, bioaccumulation, and other properties that indicate risk;
  • Ensure that expedited action is taken to reduce the use of or exposures to chemicals of highest concern.  According to Lautenberg’s summary, the bill calls for EPA “to act quickly on chemicals that clearly demonstrate high risk”;
  • Require all chemicals to be shown to be safe to remain in or enter commerce.  The bill summary states:

The burden of proving safety rests on chemical manufacturers and users, not on government to show harm before it can act.  All uses of a chemical must be identified, and the resulting aggregate exposure measured against a health-based safety standard set to protect both the general population and vulnerable subpopulations that may be more susceptible or more exposed to the chemical, such as children.  If the safety standard is not met, the chemical cannot be marketed.

  • Ensure broad public, market, and worker access to reliable chemical information.  The bill would establish a public database that would include chemical information submitted to EPA, and EPA’s decisions regarding chemicals.  The bill would also narrow the conditions under which data could be claimed as confidential business information (CBI), and would provide access to CBI by workers and local, state, tribal, and (in some cases) foreign governments, provided they protect its confidentiality; and
  • Promote innovation and the development and use of green chemistry and safer alternatives to chemicals of concern.  EPA would establish a program to develop market and other incentives for safer alternatives, and a research grant program “targeted at priority hazardous chemicals for which alternatives do not presently exist.”  The bill would allow some new chemicals to enter the market, using an expedited process for reviewing safety.

Links to the bills, summaries, and other related materials are available here.

A variety of interested parties will now be able to read what is actually proposed and go beyond the general rhetoric of “principles” and goals.  At this early point, the fact that the text on both sides of the Hill has been released as a draft bill is one sign the door is open for some serious discussion among the various groups.  Also ongoing is a series of weekly meetings among groups hosted by Congressional staff to discuss various elements of the proposals.  This also is a sign that some attempt at achieving consensus will initially be sought.  At the same time, given the wide variety of groups claiming an interest in the legislation, consensus, by definition, will be difficult to attain.