Legislative Update – Senate Committee to Vote on the Safe Chemicals Act
The Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee is scheduled to vote on S. 847, the Safe Chemicals Act, on Wednesday, July 25. This legislation, sponsored by Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), would reform the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) by requiring chemical manufacturers and processors to submit minimum data sets for all substances they produce, requiring the EPA to prioritize chemicals based on risk, requiring each chemical to meet a safety standard of “reasonable certainty that no harm will result to human health or the environment from aggregate exposure,” and placing limits on the ability of companies to claim confidential business information. NACD has concerns with the Safe Chemicals Act and is disappointed that the EPW Committee has decided to bring the bill up for a vote at this time. Several weeks ago, Senator Lautenberg and Senator David Vitter (R-LA) began discussions on a new approach to TSCA reform that could gain industry and bipartisan support. NACD believes that it is premature for the Committee to vote on S. 847 this early into these bipartisan discussions. NACD has signed a letter expressing these concern as part of the Alliance for American Innovation, a coalition of 99 organizations who support reasonable and workable TSCA modernization legislation. To read the letter, go to www.nacd.com/advocacy/Comments.aspx.
The EPW’s decision to vote on TSCA reform comes during a time of renewed focus on this issue. Earlier this month, in the wake of a Chicago Tribune investigative report alleging that flame retardant manufacturers misled the public about the risks and effectiveness of these materials, a bipartisan group of 26 Senators sent a letter to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Lisa Jackson asking the agency to increase oversight of polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) and to require manufacturers, importers, and processors to provide more data about these compounds, which are commonly used as flame retardants. The letter highlighted flame retardants as an example that “reinforces why there is broad agreement that TSCA must be reformed to protect American families from dangerous chemicals in a cost-effective way” and, urged EPA “to continue to work with Congress to enact consensus reforms”. A copy of the letter can be found at www.lautenberg.senate.gov/assets/pbde.pdf. Senator Dick Durbin (R-IL) held a hearing on the issue last week in the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government. This morning, the Senate EPW Committee held a hearing on the Oversight of EPA Authorities and Actions to Control Exposures to Toxic Chemicals, which also addressed the flame retardant issue and set the stage for Wednesday’s vote on the Safe Chemicals Act.
Finally, last week, the Natural Resources Defense Council announced the results of national and state polls in which 74 percent of respondents thought the threat posed to people’s health by the exposure to toxic chemicals is serious, with 34 percent saying they thought the threat is “very serious,” and in which 68 percent of the respondents expressed support for stricter regulation of chemicals used and produced in the United States. Click here for more information, including links to the polls.