Friday, December 18, 2009

TSCA Chemical Reform Bill Might Happen in 1st Quarter 2010

For the past 10 months I have been following the ongoing developments as Congress considers how to "reform," "modernize" or otherwise change the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). Originally passed in 1976 and largely unchanged since then, there seems to be wide agreement across all stakeholders that it is time for TSCA to be updated.

The questions are how, and when?

While there is agreement on the "general principles" level, there is still quite a bit of difference in how to get there. Industry largely favors an government-centric prioritization step in which EPA would do some preliminary review based on the available data and then identify chemicals for which industry would agree to provide additional information. The health and environmental advocacy community, while recognizing that resource limitations will require some sort of prioritization, is in favor of something closer to what the REACH program stipulates in the EU. They want to have industry provide at least a base set of data on all chemicals that are currently produced. Otherwise, they say, EPA will have the same problem it has now, i.e., how do you prioritize when you don't have the data needed for prioritization.

Rumor now has it that Senator Lautenberg wants to make sure the bill he will likely reintroduce gets some attention, and that there are likely to be some additional Congressional hearings before introduction. Given that and the approaching holidays, as well as the current focus on the climate change meetings in Copenhagen, it will likely be January before we see hearings and February or March before a bill is introduced.

I suspect it will be done pretty early in the year since members in the House (and 1/3 of the Senate) will be in reelection campaign mode by late spring and summer. I think there will be interest in being able to tout a major legislative victory (depending, of course, on which members would think of TSCA reform passage as "victory").

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