Wednesday, March 3, 2010

As TSCA Chemical Reform Nears, EPA Toxics Office Changes its Name and Lisa Jackson Pushes Senate

The reintroduction of the Kid Safe Chemical Act, the updated/reformed/modernized version of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) is expected "in the next few weeks to a month" according to Steve Owens speaking at a trade association meeting on Monday. Meanwhile, Administrator Lisa Jackson meets with Democratic Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island to push for swift introduction of the bill. And if that isn't enough, EPA is changing the name of the key office dealing with toxic chemicals.

The current Office of Prevention, Pesticides and Toxic Substances will officially become the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention on April 22, 2010 (not coincidentally, Earth Day). Supposedly the name change is to reflect the Administrator's priority of ensuring the safety of chemicals, but in practice the name change is just a name change.

But the meeting with Senator Whitehouse is more significant as it either signifies that the bill is imminent, or that the bill is stuck in the mud. The conventional wisdom is the former, and I think this time the conventional wisdom is correct. Whitehouse gave the closing arguments at the Senate hearing held in early February, but Senator Lautenberg will clearly be the primary sponsor of the bill. After all, "Kid Safe" is his baby (or perhaps his "grandbaby" since he is always talking about his grandchildren). Expect the bill this month with a companion bill in the House to be introduced by Congressman Bobby Rush, who chairs the subcommittee that will be holding hearings tomorrow.

That House subcommittee hearing, entitled "TSCA and Persistent, Bioaccumulative, and Toxic Chemicals: Examining Domestic and International Actions," will be held Thursday, March 4th in the Rayburn House Office Building. The people to testify have not as this writing been listed on the committee web site, but are expected to include Jim Jones from EPA, Linda Greer of the Natural Resources Defense Council and Bill Adams representing the North American Metals Council. [UPDATE: In addition to the above, also testifying will be John Thompson from the Department of State, Ted Sturdevant from the Department of Ecology in the State of Washington, Christina Cowen-Ellsberry who is now a consultant but was with Procter & Gamble for many years.]

I'll have a full update on the hearing tomorrow and the next days.

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