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Volume 87 Issue 49 | p. 10 | News of The Week
Issue Date: December 7, 2009

Momentum For Chemical Control

TSCA: Senate panel examines toxic substances act, 13 states call for reform
Department: Government & Policy
Keywords: TSCA, EPA
Jackson
Credit: Newscom
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Jackson
Credit: Newscom

Efforts to update the federal law governing chemical manufacture gained momentum this week as the Senate held a hearing on the issue and a coalition of states called for a rewrite of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).

At the Senate Environment & Public Works Committee hearing, Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg (D-N.J.) said he would introduce a TSCA reform soon. The House has held hearings on revamping the chemical control law but has no legislation to do so as yet (C&EN, Nov. 23, page 8).

Lautenberg said his bill “will require companies to prove that their products are safe before they end up in a store, in our homes, or in our bodies.” He added, “We already regulate pesticides and pharmaceuticals this way.”

In 2005 and 2008, Lautenberg sponsored legislation to recast TSCA as the Kid-Safe Chemicals Act. But the measure failed in the face of opposition from chemical manufacturers and the Bush Administration.

But this year, things have changed. Now, major segments of the chemical industry, led by the American Chemistry Council, are backing modernization of the 33-year-old TSCA. In addition, the Obama Administration has ranked revising the law among its top environmental priorities.

Lautenberg’s fellow senators on the committee have taken note of these shifts. As the hearing began, many expressed interest in revamping TSCA.

The hearing included testimony from EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson about that law. But in their questioning of her, senators paid scant attention to TSCA. All queries from Republicans and some from Democrats focused on e-mails between prominent climate scientists that were stolen and posted on the Internet late last month. The e-mails suggest the scientists worked to wield tighter control over the peer review process of some climate journals and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Jackson maintained that the e-mails do not affect the scientific consensus that climate change is happening and that humans are the cause.

Separate from the hearing, a coalition of 13 states joined the call to reform TSCA. California, Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington want the law revised in part to promote the development and use of safer products and chemicals.

 
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