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Web Date: July 24, 2012

Senate Committee To Vote On TSCA Reform

Congress: More than three decades since it was signed into law, the Toxic Substances Control Act inches closer to being updated
Department: Government & Policy
News Channels: Environmental SCENE
Keywords: TSCA, Congress, Senate

After years of discussion, a congressional committee this week will hold a vote on a bill to reform the law that governs the manufacture of chemicals.

The Senate Committee on Environment & Public Works will hold a hearing on Tuesday on the adequacy of that law, the Toxic Substances Control Act. On Wednesday, the panel is scheduled to vote on a bill (S. 847) to modernize TSCA, the proposed Safe Chemicals Act.

For years congressional committees have discussed modernizing TSCA, which has remained virtually unchanged since President Gerald R. Ford signed it into law in 1976. But no committee has ever moved legislation.

It appears likely that the committee will approve S. 847 on Wednesday. If so, the Senate committee’s vote would be “momentous,” says Kenneth A. Cook, president of the Environmental Working Group, an activist organization. No TSCA reform bill has ever garnered a congressional committee’s approval before, he explains.

Chemical manufacturers groups have opposed S. 847. But environmental activists say the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg (D-N.J.), has drafted a substantially reworked version of the bill that takes into account concerns voiced by chemical makers’ associations.

Lautenberg is expected to release the public version of his rewritten measure on Wednesday. Environmental activists working with the senator’s office, however, say they are familiar with the broad changes he is making to the bill.

One change expected to be part of the bill deals with the protection of confidential business information, Cook says. Chemical makers stress that protection of their proprietary information is essential to innovation.

Another change is how much health and safety information manufacturers would have to provide to the Environmental Protection Agency before introducing a new chemical to the market, says Andy Igrejas, campaign director of Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families. This group is a broad coalition of environmental and health groups and businesses that seeks reform of TSCA.

If approved on Wednesday, the bill could come to the Senate floor for a vote this year, in part because of support from Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.). The second highest ranking democrat in the Senate, Durbin became an active backer of TSCA reform in recent months. He says his interest in TSCA reform stems from an investigative series in the Chicago Tribune that alleges flame retardants are toxic and ineffective (C&EN, July 23, page 7).

Even if the Senate musters enough votes to pass Lautenberg’s bill, it appears unlikely that the House would take up the measure this year.

Two major chemical producer associations, the American Chemistry Council and the Society of Chemical Manufacturers & Affiliates, did not respond to C&EN’s request for comments by deadline.

 
Chemical & Engineering News
ISSN 0009-2347
Copyright © American Chemical Society
Comments
Dr. Christian Knudsen (Fri Jul 27 07:43:35 EDT 2012)
Good news. TSCA updating needed/overdue. ACC/SOCMA input vital. Hope to read their comments on new Senate bill soon. This legislation should be a 2013 priority for Congress. Litigation consulting experience convinces me that chemical worker safety - especially for contract maintenance workers cleaning equipment - can be improved substantially.

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