Since the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee’s legislative hearing last week on modernizing the outdated Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), critiques, endorsements, and other reactions have continued to roll in from all corners of the TSCA reform universe. Yesterday, Chemical Watch reported that the Alliance of Automotive Manufacturers and the Consumer Electronics Association came out in support of S. 697, the “Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act” introduced by Senators Tom Udall (D-NM) and David Vitter (R-LA). Both industry groups lauded the bipartisan bill for creating a single regulatory scheme that would be consistent across the U.S., which they prefer to the approach put forward in the competing proposal from Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Edward Markey (D-MA). According to Chemical Watch, the electronics companies Dell and Hewlett-Packard are taking a wait-and-see approach to the proposed bills, while the Retail Industry Leaders Association, whose members include Walmart, Target, and Nike, is still reviewing the legislation with its member companies.
Companies for Safer Chemicals, a coalition coordinated by the American Sustainable Business Council and representing manufacturers including Seventh Generation and Naturepedic, expressed early support for the Boxer-Markey bill, calling S. 697 “insufficient” and faulting its slower timeline for chemical safety assessments. The coalition has also submitted a letter to the EPW Committee suggesting certain improvements to be made to the Udall-Vitter bill, including delayed preemption of state action, loosening Confidential Business Information (CBI) protections to increase transparency through supply chains, a “more robust review schedule,” fully funding TSCA through an uncapped fee system, and making it easier for EPA to restrict articles containing hazardous chemicals.
Earlier this week, Chemical Watch highlighted letters from the California Environmental Protection Agency (CalEPA) [PDF] and several state Attorneys General [PDF], both opposing the Udall-Vitter bill. The state officials object to the legislation’s elimination of co-enforcement and overbroad preemption provision, which they say would prevent state action to regulate dangerous chemicals. CalEPA Secretary Matthew Rodriguez further argued that S. 697 would impede the full implementation of California’s landmark green chemistry law, the Safer Consumer Products program.
Lawmakers and stakeholders are discussing the possibilities for negotiating amendments to the Udall-Vitter bill that could attract additional support from Democrats and the Obama administration.
A related debate has been playing out among legal experts over the Udall-Vitter bill’s safety standard of “unreasonable risk.” A group of former senior EPA legal officials who served in the last four administrations sent a letter to the Senate EPW Committee backing the bill, saying that the “unreasonable risk” standard “as included in S. 697 is not to be interpreted as it has under the existing TSCA.” That letter was in response to a March 16 letter [PDF] from public interest attorneys and environmental law professors, which called the safety standard in S. 697 “deeply problematic.”