Posted on May 25, 2016 by Lynn L. Bergeson
As divisive as Congress is, Members miraculously seem to agree that our chemical management law, the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), needs modernizing. On May 6, the key Members of the Senate announced that they had reached agreement on draft TSCA reform legislation; the House is expected also to act soon, perhaps before Memorial Day. This means that TSCA, our chemical control law enacted almost 40 years ago, could be significantly modernized this year — a goal that has proven to be uniquely elusive. Many believe that TSCA’s greatest failing, and the deficit that most undermined the public’s confidence in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) ability to assure chemical safety, is EPA’s limited authority under TSCA to regulate “existing” chemical substances believed to pose risks. Pending TSCA reform legislation that is supported by an unusually broad group of stakeholders would strengthen EPA’s authority and address this failing. Consensus on the contentious issue of preemption has proven especially challenging as many states are aggressively enacting chemical-specific measures, have been for years, and do not wish to cede authority to EPA. Now that the Senate has reached agreement, the hope is the House can also agree quickly as time is running out. TSCA reform is urgently needed. Congress has never been this close to making it happen, and while we are not there yet, Congress seems poised uncharacteristically to make the right choice. Tobacco products will still not be subject to TSCA jurisdiction, but celebrations will be in order if this elusive milestone is finally reached.