Monday, April 15, 2013

Will current efforts to reform the TSCA chemical control law actually roll back progress?

Just last week Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) reintroduced his Safe Chemicals Act and there was hope for some sort of TSCA reform. Senator David Vitter (R-LA) is expected to introduce an alternative, chemical-industry-backed, counter-bill in the next few weeks. But Richard Denison, senior scientist at the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), believes that Senator Vitter's bill will actually roll back even the current limited authority of EPA to regulate chemicals under TSCA.

While some of this is speculation since very few people have seen Vitter's bill - he seems to have consulted primarily with only the one major chemical trade association and cut out other chemical groups, health advocates, environmentalists, and the public - Denison gleans from public statements several areas that could result in dramatic weakening of the current TSCA.

For example, rather than making it easier for EPA to request testing on chemicals with little data but apparent concern, Vitter's bill may actually make it harder for EPA to do so. According to Denison, the bill could also restrict the abilities of states to step in when the federal authorities fail, or are incapable, of taking action. There has also been widespread questioning of the risk standard proposed in the Lautenberg bill, a standard that Denison points out has been endorsed by major medical groups as necessary to protect vulnerable subpopulations, including developing fetuses and infants. The Vitter bill would also apparently make no changes to the current PMN process for new chemicals, a process that requires virtually no health and safety data be submitted in most cases.

So despite some movement on TSCA reform - the introduction of one and probably two new bills - it seems we're headed for another stalemate in which the goal is to stop TSCA reform. Again.

Denison's blog article can be found on the EDF website.