Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Future of TSCA Chemical Reform Law Uncertain After Election Results

The mid-term elections in the United States have put the future of the TSCA reform into question, for a variety of reasons:

1) The current House bill was introduced by California Representative Henry Waxman and Illinois Representative Bobby Rush, who served as chairs of the relevant committee and subcommittee, respectively. Both won reelection, but with the Republicans gaining control of the House that means Waxman and Rush will be demoted to ranking members.  While the new chairs have yet to be determined, they will be Republicans and are likely to have a different vision of how to proceed.  If they proceed at all.

2) The current bills in the House and Senate probably lean slightly more toward the environmental and health advocacy position (though they might disagree with that characterization).  With Republicans now the majority in the House the new bills, which would have to be reintroduced in the next Congress anyway, will likely lean more toward the industry position (though like the advocacy side, there is quite a bit of differences of opinion between various industry stakeholders).

3) Several potential chairs of key environmental, health, and oversight committees have indicated a desire to undertake oversight hearings. So while there were many hearings on TSCA reform during the last year or two, those hearings were on finding a path forward for reform.  The will likely be some of those as well under the new chairs in the House, but the oversight committee is likely to be holding hearings on whether EPA is overstepping its current authority under TSCA as it exists now.  This could dilute the effort towards reforming the law.

There are other reasons that yesterday's election creates additional uncertainty in the continuing attempts to reform the 34-year old chemical control law, and I'll take a look at those as more information on the changed legislative dynamics in Washington becomes available.

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