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Policy

Rewriting Toxic Substances Law

Congress: Senators ask industry group to stop complaining and get specific about bill

by Cheryl Hogue
November 28, 2011 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 89, ISSUE 48

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Credit: Courtesy Sen. Cardin
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Credit: Courtesy Sen. Cardin
Cardin

Senators want the industry group American Chemistry Council (ACC) to quit griping about legislation to reform the nation’s chemical control law and cough up details of what it wants in the bill.

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Credit: U.S. Congress
Lautenberg
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Credit: U.S. Congress
Lautenberg

“Be straight with us,” said Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin (D-Md.) at a Nov. 17 hearing on S. 847, the proposed Safe Chemicals Act of 2011. The bill would modernize the 35-year-old Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).

“If your objective is to defeat this legislation, I understand,” Cardin told Calvin M. Dooley, president and chief executive officer of ACC. Dooley was among witnesses at the hearing held by the Senate Environment & Public Works Subcommittee on Superfund, Toxics & Environmental Health. Without buy-in from ACC, the bill likely would not attract enough political support for Congress to pass it.

At the hearing, some Democrats scolded ACC for criticizing parts of the bill without offering specific alternatives. ACC, which offered broad principles for TSCA reform two years ago, has said S. 847 has a number of fundamental flaws.

“If you don’t like it, be more specific,” said Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg (D-N.J.), chairman of the subcommittee and sponsor of S. 847.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) requested that Dooley provide a rewrite of S. 847—including detailed alternatives to the parts of the bill ACC finds unworkable—by the end of 2011.

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Credit: ACC
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Credit: ACC
Dooley

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 stated. “We need your help.” Lautenberg said he will call a vote on the bill in coming weeks or months.

The hearing followed a series of private meetings that Lautenberg and Sen. James M. Inhofe of Oklahoma, the top Republican on the Environment & Public Works Committee, have jointly held with industry, activists, and states on how to reform TSCA.

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