Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Senators Lautenberg and Inhofe Staffs Hold Stakeholder Meetings on Safe Chemicals Act of 2011

Way back in April Senator Frank Lautenberg introduced his newest iteration of TSCA reform called the Safe Chemicals Act of 2011.  Last year the Democratic-controlled House took the lead in holding stakeholder meetings to fine tune the 2010 versions of the bill.  With the House controlled by Republicans this year it is left to the 87 year old Lautenberg to initiate stakeholder meetings in the Senate in an attempt to give TSCA reform at least some semblance of movement during the current Congressional term.  Since Republican Senator Inhofe had previously volunteered to work in a bipartisan manner with the Democratic Lautenberg, their staffs have begun meeting with various stakeholders to discuss key issues in the debate.

In June there were separate meetings between staffers and industry and environmental/health advocacy groups (NGOs).  Those meetings primarily dealt with the differing opinions on what should be the "safety standard."  It's unclear at this stage whose viewpoint would win out, but in the past industry has made it clear that the previously proposed standard was unworkable.  At least one more stakeholder meeting with industry representatives was held last week, this time to discuss a prioritization scheme.  A separate meeting with NGOs was due to occur, but it is unclear if it has yet happened.  NGOs had previously pushed to have minimum data sets required for all chemicals, in line with the production volume based tiered requirements currently being compiled by REACH registrants.  This is a fundamental point of difference between the two main groups of stakeholders.

Additional meetings on other key elements of Lautenberg's bill are expected to occur in coming weeks.

Whether a TSCA reform bill can even be taken up for floor discussion in this current Congress is a question mark, though it is safe to say that the likelihood is exceedingly small.  The current contentious environment and uncompromising attitudes of many in the House make passage of any TSCA reform law nearly impossible.  Which means that the EPA must work under the current 35-year old law, the same law that all stakeholders have said is in dire need of modernization.

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