Friday, December 4, 2009

Statement of EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson - Senate Hearing on TSCA Chemical Control Reform

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson testified at the Senate hearing on TSCA reform on Wednesday, December 2, 2009. The title of the hearing is "Oversight Hearing on the Federal Toxic Substances Control Act.”

In her testimony, Jackson reiterated the EPA principles that she had introduced in late September.

First, chemicals should be reviewed against safety standards that are based on sound science and reflect risk‐based criteria protective of human health and the environment. Safety standards should be driven solely by scientific evidence of risks. EPA should have the clear authority to establish safety standards that reflect the best available science while recognizing the need to assess and manage risk in the face of uncertainty.

Second, the responsibility for providing adequate health and safety information should rest on industry. Manufacturers must develop and submit the hazard, use, and exposure data demonstrating that new and existing chemicals under review are safe. If industry doesn’t provide the information, EPA should have the necessary tools to quickly and efficiently require testing, or obtain other information from manufacturers that are relevant to determining the safety of chemicals, without the delays and obstacles currently in place, or excessive claims of confidential business information.

Third, EPA should have clear authority to take risk management actions when chemicals do not meet the safety standard, with flexibility to take into account a range of considerations, including children’s health, economic costs, social benefits, and equity concerns. EPA and industry must include special consideration for exposures and effects on groups with higher vulnerabilities – particularly children. For example, children ingest chemicals at a higher ratio to their body weight than adults, and are more susceptible to long‐term damage and developmental problems. Our new principles offer them much stronger protections.

Fourth, EPA should have clear authority to set priorities for conducting safety reviews. In all cases, EPA and chemical producers must act on priority chemicals in a timely manner, with firm deadlines to maintain accountability. This will not only assure prompt protection of health and the environment, but provide business with the certainly that it needs for planning and investment.

Fifth, we must encourage innovation in green chemistry, and support research, education, recognition, and other strategies that will lead us down the road to safer and more sustainable chemicals and processes. All of this must happen with transparency and concern for the public’s right to know.

Finally, implementation of the law should be adequately and consistently funded, in order to meet the goal of assuring the safety of chemicals, and to maintain public confidence that EPA is meeting that goal. To that end, manufacturers of chemicals should support the costs of Agency implementation, including the review of information provided by manufacturers.

Jackson acknowledged that coming up with a new law will take time. So she noted that she had instructed Steve Owens to use all the current authority TSCA gives EPA very aggressively. Starting with completing and making public a series of “action plans” for the chemicals which will outline the risks that the use of these chemicals may present and what steps we may take to address those concerns.

More on the hearings to come.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

13 US States Issue Recommendations for TSCA Chemical Control Reform

Recently the House held hearings on reform of the over 30-year old Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), and yesterday the Senate followed suit with its own hearing. Yesterday also was important because thirteen US states released "a set of principles designed to ensure that the debate over reforming the nation’s outdated chemical policy stays focused on protecting public health and the environment.:

“Current federal chemical regulations fail to adequately protect the nation’s citizens and environment from toxic chemicals and unsafe products,” said David Littell, Commissioner of the Maine Department of Environmental Protection. “The effects of exposure to toxic chemicals on human health, the environment, and the economy are enormous and often avoidable.”

Not surprisingly, California is one of the states taking action. In addition, Maine and Washington are taking state level action. The other states contributing to the principles are Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, and Vermont.

The eight recommendations listed are:

1) Require Chemical Data Reporting

2) Demonstrate Chemicals and Products are Safe

3) Prioritize Chemicals of Concern

4) Protect the Most Vulnerable

5) Promote Safer Chemicals and Products

6) Address Emerging Contaminants

7) Strengthen Federal Law & Preserve States' Rights

8) Fund State Programs

A press release summarizing these recommendation is available on the Maine DEP web site. I'll continue to monitor developments both on the state and federal levels. See here for the opening remarks of yesterday's Senate hearing. I'll post summaries of the remarks of all the witnesses in the following days as well as analysis of what all these hearings mean for the modernization of TSCA.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Statement of Barbara Boxer - Senate Hearing on TSCA Chemical Control Reform

As I noted yesterday, today there is a Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing entitled "Oversight Hearing on the Federal Toxic Substances Control Act.” As I write this the hearing is still going on, but here are the opening remarks of Committee Chairwoman Barbara Boxer. I'll provide additional information on each of the witnesses in coming days. Witnesses are EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, John Stephenson at GAO, and Linda Birnbaum who heads the NIEHS.

DECEMBER 2, 2009
(Remarks as prepared for delivery.)

When President Ford signed the Toxic Substances Control Act, TSCA in 1976, the law was supposed to help assure that toxic chemicals would be restricted or banned if they were hazardous.

However, more than three decades later, TSCA has not lived up to that promise. Court decisions and poor implementation have severely weakened the Act’s effectiveness over the years, and TSCA does not include sufficient protections for pregnant women, infants, children and others who are particularly vulnerable to chemical exposures.

In March 2009, the Government Accountability Office put EPA’s chemical management program on GAO’s list of “high risk” programs.

The GAO’s report found: “EPA has failed to develop sufficient chemical assessment information to limit public exposure to many chemicals that may pose substantial health risks.”

I am pleased to see that the Obama Administration is listening, and the EPA is stepping up to the plate on the need to reform our toxics laws.

In September, 2009, EPA issued principles for TSCA reform that include common-sense steps to help address the risks of dangerous toxic chemicals. I look forward to Administrator Jackson’s testimony today on those principles.

Consumers in this country deserve to know that the chemicals we are exposed to every day are safe. The companies that most effectively produce the safest chemicals stand to gain market share, enhanced consumer confidence, and reduce their potential liability costs.

My State of California has led the way in reducing threats from dangerous chemicals, such as phthalates and lead in children’s products. I am proud to have helped pass federal legislation that protects children from these chemicals in the Consumer Protection Safety and Improvement Act of 2008.

There is growing consensus that now is the time to act to transform America’s toxic chemical policies. Senator Lautenberg and I are working on a bill to overhaul TSCA, by requiring the chemical industry to prove their chemicals are safe for pregnant women, infants, children, and other vulnerable populations.

Public health, environmental, environmental justice and other groups have also called for reform that focuses on protecting all people from toxic chemicals, and encouraging the use of safer alternatives to dangerous substances.

The American Chemistry Council’s has issued principles that “support Congress’ effort to modernize our nation’s chemical management system.”

We have a responsibility to America’s families to ensure that the chemicals in the environment, and in the products they use every day have been scientifically tested and that they and their children are not put at risk.

This Committee has the opportunity to strengthen our nation’s toxics laws to ensure that evaluations on the safety of chemicals are made based on science and public health and that all people – especially the most vulnerable – are protected.

Today’s hearing is an important step forward in that process.

I look forward to hearing from our witnesses today.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Witnesses Identified to Testify in Senate Hearing on TSCA Chemical Control Reform

The Senate has announced the witnesses that will by testifying at a joint hearing of both the full committee and subcommittee on Superfund, Toxics and Environmental Health scheduled for Wednesday, December 2, 2009.

The title of the hearing is "Oversight Hearing on the Federal Toxic Substances Control Act.”

Witnesses include, after opening remarks by the Chairwoman:

Panel 1

The Honorable Lisa Jackson
United States Environmental Protection Agency

Panel 2

John B. Stephenson
Director, Natural Resources & Environment
U.S. Government Accountability Office

Linda Birnbaum Ph.D.
National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and the National Toxicology Program

This hearing is part of the duties of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, which Barbara Boxer chairs and James Inhofe is ranking minority member.

The hearing will begin at 2:30 pm EST in the EPW Hearing Room - 406 Dirksen Senate Office Building.

Recently the House also held a hearing on TSCA reform, focusing on prioritization of chemicals first to be addressed. See my series of articles beginning with this summary and followed on subsequent days with more in-depth summaries of each of the witnesses.

A webcast of the hearing is now available.

I will also provide additional information on witness testimony following this Senate hearing.