Sunday, January 18, 2009

Obama Appointments May Affect Chemical Law Reform

I have written before on attempts to reform the way we manage chemicals in the United States (Inorganic chemicals and Montebello, now called ChAMP), as well as in Europe (REACH). With a new Congress and a new President, and with many pressures from all sides, it is likely that there will be renewed efforts to pass a comprehensive reform of the Toxic Substance Control Act (TSCA) in 2009. But it is not guaranteed.

One factor that may affect the likelihood of TSCA reform this year is the move by several House and Senate members to the new Administration. The House version of the Kid Safe Chemical Act bill (KSCA) (H.R.6100) was introduced in 2008 by Hilda Solis and Henry Waxman. Congresswoman Solis has been tapped by President Obama to be his Secretary of Labor. Her successor will be selected by special election in California's 32nd Congressional District. Because the special election takes up to 4 months to complete, and Solis' successor will be a freshman Congressperson, it is unclear whether they would be in a position to reintroduce the bill in the 111th Congress. Similarly, Congressman Waxman has taken over the chairmanship of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, previously long led for the Democrats by Michigan Congressman John Dingell. In his new position, Waxman seems intent on working with the many other California Democrats in leadership positions, as well as the Obama Administration, to give greater emphasis to energy and climate change related issues. Of course, the bill could be reintroduced by anyone in the House.

In the Senate, New Jersey's Frank Lautenberg (along with Waxman in the House) was the leader behind the original KSCA introduced first in 2005 and reintroduced it as S.3040 in 2008. As of the fall of 2008 the Senate Committee on Environment and Public works, on which Lautenberg serves and California Senator Boxer Chairs, were indicating that they planned to begin hearings on KSCA/TSCA reform this spring. Certainly there will be several issues competing for resources, but with REACH and the Canadian prioritization programs applying pressure, and the EPA focusing on enhancing the current ChAMP program, there will be incentive from all sides to find a workable alternative to the current TSCA program here in the states.

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