Sens. Tom Udall, D-N.M., and David Vitter, R-La., on March 10 introduced bipartisan legislation (S. 697) to reform the Toxic Substances Control Act. The legislation, which currently has 16 cosponsors (eight Republicans and eight Democrats), has been referred to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. EPW Chairman James Inhofe, R.-Okla., a cosponsor of the legislation, has already scheduled a hearing on the bill for March 18.
According to a joint press release by Sens. Udall and Vitter, the so-called Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act would create a predictable and transparent federal system to regulate the safety of chemicals based on the latest science. The legislation seeks to provide greater regulatory certainty to the chemical manufacturing industry and strike a balance between state and federal roles in chemical safety management.
Highlights of the legislation include the following.
• Chemical safety decisions by the Environmental Protection Agency would be based solely on considerations of risk to public health and the environment. The legislation makes clear that costs and benefits may not factor into a chemical safety evaluation.
• TSCA’s “least burdensome” requirement for regulating a chemical, which prevented the EPA from banning asbestos, would be eliminated.
• All chemicals in commerce, including those “grandfathered” under TSCA, would be required to undergo safety reviews.
• A safety finding for new chemicals would be required before they can enter the market.
• The legislation would place greater emphasis on and require protection of those who may be more exposed or particularly vulnerable to the effects of exposure to chemicals, and would clearly define them for the first time as including infants, children, pregnant women, workers and the elderly.
• At least 15 deadlines would be established for EPA action, developed with input from the agency.
• Confidentiality claims would have to be substantiated up front and a 10-year, renewable time limit would be imposed on such claims.
• The EPA would be required to review claims that protect the identities of chemicals in commerce.
• The legislation clarifies that the existing right of Americans to sue and seek damages when they believe harm has been done will not be affected.
• State regulations on chemicals enacted prior to Jan. 1, 2015, would be grandfathered.
• States would be able to restrict a chemical until and unless the EPA takes up that same chemical and addresses the same uses.
• State actions that do not restrict a chemical or are taken to address a different problem would not be affected.
• A waiver process would be included for states to set different regulations than the EPA during the safety assessment and after a final rule.
• Once the EPA acts on a chemical substance, a uniform federal standard would be applied across the nation, creating more regulatory certainty and equally protecting citizens across the country.