Wednesday, June 23, 2010
Will the November Elections "Reform" TSCA Chemical Reform?
As anyone reading my posts on this site knows already, the US Congress has introduced bills in the House and Senate to reform/modernize TSCA, the 34 year old Toxic Substances Control Act. But those following the process also know that this year is a mid-term election year and that the minority party - the Republicans - are expected to make substantial gains in the number of seats they hold. Some believe that the Republican party will gain the majority in either the House or Senate, or both.
So what does this mean for TSCA reform?
It could mean a lot. The Democratic majority in key committees is led by very environmentally minded leadership from California - Barbara Boxer for the Senate EPW committee and Henry Waxman for the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Frank Lautenberg from New Jersey has also taken the lead in the Senate as chairman of the relevant subcommittee in Boxer's EPW committee. A Republican takeover would put significantly less environmentally and health-aware chairs in place. Even significant gains in seats would shift the balance of power more into the Republican view, which tends to put more emphasis on industry than would the Democratic view.
So would Republican gains kill TSCA reform? No. At least, probably not. Industry is generally in agreement that modernization of TSCA is necessary, primarily because industry would rather deal with one federal-level law than a hodgepodge of 50 state laws (plus a few regional rules tossed in to further complicate compliance).
So while some sort of TSCA reform in 2011 seems inevitable, most would agree that it will be more industry-friendly than the current bills being offered.
Another major concern is funding of EPA. No matter what the final law looks like, and despite the desire to shift the burden of proof onto industry, it is clear that EPA will have much more work to do with the updated regulations. In short, much more information means much more review. In the EU, REACH created an entirely new agency to do the work. In the US, EPA has struggled with reduced funding for many years, and the current economic situation most assuredly will limit any new funding to deal with new mandates.
So what will the final Safe Chemicals Act look like? We don't know for sure. But it's a safe bet that after the November elections it will shift from the more environmental/health friendly tone of the current bills to a more industry friendly tone in the final bills likely to be reintroduced in 2011.