President Signs Major Chemicals Reform Bill

President Obama signed major chemicals legislation into law on June 22, 2016. The bill, called the “Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act to reform the Toxic Substance Control Act (TSCA)” aims to modernize how chemicals are managed in the U.S. On June 7, 2016 the Senate passed the compromise TSCA Reform bill by voice vote on June 7, 2016 and the House of Representatives passed this bill on May 24, 2016 by a vote of 403 to 12.

Summary of New Requirements

NASF has been working with several industry coalitions to support this historic bipartisan legislation to revise U.S. chemical management requirements. Based on the language in the legislation, the new requirements would include the following.

  • “Conditions of use” (i.e., how a chemical is made, processed, used or disposed of) is used to determine the actual risks posed by chemical substances.
  • Mandated EPA risk reviews for new and existing chemicals before they can enter the market.
  • For existing chemical substances, EPA will set priorities for the highest risk substances, conduct a risk evaluation, and implement risk management requirements.
  • Three years for EPA to complete risk evaluation and have an annual plan identifying chemical substances subject to risk evaluation.
  • EPA is required to propose risk management rules for chemical substances within one year of completing risk evaluation, and another year to issue a final rule.
  • Address Confidential Business Information claims protecting the identities of chemical substances in commerce.
  • Set fees to fund the new chemicals program only after consultation with potentially subject parties.
  • Provide preemption for state actions to regulate chemical substances taken before August 1, 2015 to balance state and federal authority to regulate chemicals.

Metal-Specific Provisions

As a result of an initiative by several metals industries, including industry meetings on Capitol Hill during the NASF Washington Forum over the past two years, several provisions include favorable treatment for metals and metal compounds.

  • Metals and Metal Compounds – In identifying priorities for and conducting risk evaluations, EPA will be required to use its 2007 Framework for Metals Risk Assessment, which takes into consideration that metals and metal compounds by their nature are persistent in the environment and have unique characteristics. The risks associated with metals and metal compounds must be assessed differently than organic chemicals.
  • Expedited Action – Metals are excluded from expedited EPA action on persistent, bio-accumulative and toxic (PBT) chemicals for risk management through regulation. EPA would be required to conduct risk evaluations on metals and metal compounds before proceeding to a rulemaking.
  • Preference Provisions – In designating high-priority substances, EPA shall give preference to chemicals listed in the 2014 update of the TSCA Work Plan for Chemical Assessments, such as those with a high persistent and bio-accumulative score, those that are known human carcinogens, and those that have high acute and chronic toxicity. While this is generally favorable to metals and metal compounds, the provision will be a mixed bag for certain metals and metal compounds, depending on their classification.

EPA Challenges Implementing New Requirements

EPA will face numerous challenges in implementing the requirements of the new legislation. The time frames for identifying high priority chemicals for review, the risk evaluations and rulemakings are fairly aggressive. In addition, EPA budget cuts and recent staff retirements will reduce needed to resources to implement the requirements in a timely fashion. EPA may have to reassign staff from other program offices to address its needs in implementing the new TSCA Reform requirements.

Many of the issues impacting the implementation of the TSCA Reform requirements discussed above will take time to develop. NASF will continue reviewing the new legislation and provide further details. If you have any questions or would like additional information, please contact Jeff Hannapel with NASF at, or Christian Richter at


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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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NASF Suppliers Discuss Chemical Laws as Debate Heats Up

NASF’s Supplier Committee met in Chicago this month to discuss priority issues for the industry and the business and compliance outlook for chemical and equipment companies.  The agenda included the effort on Capitol Hill to rewrite the current U.S. chemicals law, the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).  Health, consumer and environmental groups are now calling for tougher U.S. chemicals laws and criticizing the current bipartisan TSCA reform bill in the Senate as inadequate.

In May, the late Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) renewed the push to update the TSCA law.  Since then, the Senate bill has picked up bipartisan support and has received high marks from both the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the chemical industry.  NASF continues to participate in broader industry discussions on the measure.  While many agree that the law needs to be updated, they disagree on just how to make that happen.

Activist groups are now ramping up a broader campaign to bring attention to the issue.  Actor Sean Penn is promoting the cause with a new documentary, “The Human Experiment” which focuses on chemicals in everyday household products and their effects on humans.

Actress Jennifer Beals is also supporting the effort to influence the debate, and will take part in a “stroller brigade” in Washington next week to spotlight the issue.  The event, which will feature a “show and tell” of harmful products, will include mothers, cancer survivors, public health workers and others.

One of the biggest issues under discussion is whether the new federal legislation would prevent states from enacting more stringent laws than the federal government.  The activists campaigning on the issue want states to be allowed to pass their own tougher chemicals laws.   The latest call encouraging more action in the states can be found here from the Center for Effective Government, formerly known as OMB Watch.


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