Wednesday, March 31, 2010

TSCA Bill to be Introduced, But Will it Pass?

There seems to be a growing resignation among stakeholders that the long awaited reintroduction of the Kid Safe Chemical Act to update the old Toxic Substances Control Act, while likely to happen soon, may not get through the legislative process in time to be passed in this Congress.

Word from Senator Lautenberg's office is that he still plans to reintroduce the bill within the next few weeks. With Earth Day coming up on April 22nd, that seems like a likely date, especially since then Vice-President Al Gore introduced the High Production Volume (HPV) Chemical Challenge on that date in 1998. It is likely that the Lautenberg bill, and the mirror bill to be introduced by Congressman Rush in the House, will lean toward substantial testing requirements reminiscent of Europe's REACH program. Or not. There seems to be no one who really knows for sure.

And that in itself may be the reason it can't be passed this year. While there has been a great deal of agreement at the 30,000 foot level, there is a great deal of differences once one gets down into the details. NGOs would like industry to have to provide some base set of data on every single chemical on the TSCA Inventory (approximately 85,000). That is what REACH is doing now in Europe. Industry believes that EPA should somehow prioritize chemicals and then ask for specific data for that subset of specific chemicals that have the highest priority. And that is a fundamental difference that could take some substantial time to resolve, especially given the widely partisan nature of Congress at the moment.

So, it seems more and more likely that the bill will be a starting point for intense discussions between Congress, industry, NGOs, and other stakeholders, which will occur throughout the rest of this year. Then the potentially highly revised bill would have to be reintroduced (for the 4th time) in the next session of Congress. And given the likelihood that the November elections will significantly alter the balance of power in Congress, the delay could mean a lot.

Or not. :)

More to come.

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