U.S. Chemicals Reform Legislation Introduced in Senate New TSCA bill may pass in 2015

Earlier this month, Senators David Vitter (R-LA) and Tom Udall (D-NM), along with 14 bipartisan co-sponsors, introduced the “Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act”. The bill would overhaul current chemicals laws under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), which was last updated in 1976. While reform legislation has been introduced in the past, this is the first time that many believe there will be a likely chance of passage.

There is wide agreement from industry, government and environmentalists that the current regulatory framework is outdated and needs reform. NASF and its members are keenly interested in the legislation. A number of chemicals and metals used in the industry, such as nickel, chromium and others, could be getting increased attention in the regulatory spotlight. The new bill (S. 697) seeks, among other things, to:

  • Strengthen safety standards: Mandate that EPA base chemical safety decisions solely on considerations of risk to public health and the environment (without consideration of costs and benefits).
  • Mandate safety reviews for new and existing chemicals: Require all chemicals in commerce, even those grandfathered under TSCA, to undergo safety reviews and requiring a safety finding for new chemicals before they can enter the market.
  • Strengthen protections for the most vulnerable: Place greater emphasis on and requiring protection of those who may be more exposed or particularly vulnerable to the effects of exposure to chemicals and defining those populations as infants, children, pregnant women, workers and the elderly.
  • Establish Deadlines: Imposing at least 15 deadlines for EPA action with input from the EPA.
  • Address Confidential Business Information claims: Require that confidentiality claims be substantiated up front and imposing a 10-year, renewable time limit on those claims and requiring EPA to review claims protecting the identities of chemicals in commerce.
  • Balance state and federal regulations: Grandfather in state regulation on chemicals enacted prior to January 1, 2015, allow states to restrict a chemical until and unless EPA considers the same chemical and uses, and applying a uniform federal standard once EPA acts on a chemical standard.

A hearing on the proposed legislation was held last week, and alternative legislation to S. 697 has just been introduced by Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Senator Ed Markey (D-MA). There will be more debate in the weeks and months to come. NASF is active on the new legislation, and will be meeting with lawmakers on the measure during the Washington Forum.

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