Thursday, December 10, 2009

TSCA Chemical Control Reform May Gain Priority if Climate Bill Momentum Fades

As I have been reporting here, both the House and the Senate have been holding hearings related to the potential reform (or "modernization") of the 33 year old Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). But activities on introducing a bill have been queued up behind other large legislative efforts like health care and the climate change (cap-and-trade) bill. However, the fact that the climate change bill has lost some momentum may open up a window for chemical control.

Given that next year will be dominated by positioning for a critical mid-term election, it is quite possible that Sen. Frank Lautenberg’s pending legislation to overhaul TSCA - which he said he would introduce in the “coming weeks” (though he has been saying that same thing since this past February) - may actually get a chance to be introduced. Lautenberg had introduced a Kid Safe Chemical Act originally in 2005, then again in 2008, with the bills dying in committee with no action on both occasions. The new version of "Kid Safe" is expected to incorporate ideas offered in several meetings held in 2009 between House and Senate staff and both industy and environmental groups.

While TSCA modernization is likely to be substantially less contentious than the cap-and-trade and health care debates, there will be the inevitable differences between industry and environmental groups on the details of how to get it done. Despite these "devil in the details" issues, there is general agreement on the principles that a new TSCA will have to entail. Among these are that some form of prioritization is necessary for the new law to be workable, that industry will need to provide more health and safety data than required under TSCA, and that there will be incentives for more "green chemistry." Biomonitoring of some sort is also a possible addition to chemical control.

At a recent Senate hearing, EPW Committee chairwoman Barbara Boxer stated that TSCA reform is a priority for the committee. Boxer informed Lautenberg at the hearing that “You have my word that TSCA is very high up on my agenda.” With all sides agreeing that some modernization is necessary, this would seem to be a good time for a new law to be passed.

So we'll just have to see if TSCA reform will slip in between other major legislation. I'll continue to provide updates here as they happen.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I applaud Chairman Lautenberg's specific question of Linda Birnbaum, Director, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, regarding the development of new non-animal chemical testing methods, and ways in which Congress could "accelerate the development and use of these 21st-Century [non-animal] testing techniques. I hope Congress considers the modernizing science as they modernize TSCA, to ensure more effective and humane chemical regulations.