Web Date: November 19, 2011
Senate Democrats have made an unusual request to a major chemical industry trade group: rewrite pending legislation to reform the nation’s chemical control law.
The appeal came during a Nov. 17 hearing held by the Senate Environment & Public Works Subcommittee on Superfund, Toxics & Environmental Health on the proposed Safe Chemicals Act (S. 847). Sponsored by Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg (D-N.J.), the bill would modernize the 35-year-old Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).
Some Democrats on the subcommittee scolded the American Chemistry Council, saying the industry group criticized parts of the bill without offering specific alternatives. ACC, which offered broad principles for TSCA reform two years ago, has said Lautenberg’s bill has a number of fundamental flaws.
“You’re sniping from the woods on the side,” Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) told ACC President and Chief Executive Officer Calvin M. Dooley. Whitehouse asked Dooley to draft a rewrite of S. 847—including detailed alternatives to the parts of the bill ACC finds unworkable—by the end of 2011.
“If you don’t like it, be more specific,” said Lautenberg, chairman the subcommittee.
“Be straight with us,” said Sen. Benjamin I. Cardin (D-Md.). “If your objective is to defeat this legislation, I understand.”
Dooley responded that ACC has met with Democratic staff members on the subcommittee to present the association’s views, which are not reflected in S. 847. He said ACC and others concerned with the legislation, including environmental and health activists and state regulators, “have fundamental disagreement” on what TSCA reform should include.
Dooley said it would take “a significant period of time to resolve these complex issues.”
“We’ve got to get this moving,” Cardin said of the bill, which Lautenberg plans to call up for a subcommittee vote in coming weeks or months. “We need your help,” Cardin told Dooley.
Lautenberg has been working closely on TSCA reform with Sen. James M. Inhofe of Oklahoma, the top Republican on the Senate Environment & Public Works Committee. In recent months, Lautenberg has hosted a series of private meetings with industry, activists, and states on how to reform TSCA. “These discussions will undoubtedly help to build a foundation for eventual reforms,” Inhofe said.
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