As the 114th Congress begins, legislators in both houses are expected to continue trying to reform the outdated Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), although which specific proposals and policies will be pursued remains to be seen.
According to E&E Daily, Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM) says he’s already rallying support for a new version of the Chemical Safety Improvement Act (CSIA), a bipartisan bill originally developed and introduced by Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) and the late Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) in May 2013. Although Sen. Udall lost his seat in the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, he is still seen by some advocates as “uniquely positioned to garner the support of more lawmakers.” Moreover, efforts at bipartisan collaboration may fare better under new Committee Chair Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK), who is known to have a collegial relationship with Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), the former Chair and current Ranking Member of the Committee. Last year’s TSCA negotiations in the Senate ended with acrimonious disagreements between Sens. Boxer and Vitter. In discussing his agenda for the new Congress, Sen. Inhofe described the CSIA as a “good starting point” and “a high priority” for the Committee. Among the Democrats, a Committee aide said that Sen. Boxer’s support is predicated on the bill being “stronger than current law.” Sen. Udall said he is still trying to resolve Sen. Boxer’s concerns
On the House side, Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL) said in a statement that he is “hopeful” about attracting the bipartisan support needed to pass chemical reform. Rep. Shimkus, returning as head of the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Environment and the Economy, tabled his Chemicals in Commerce Act (CICA) draft bill after failing to win buy-in among Democrats. Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ), the new Ranking Member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, has expressed “serious concerns” about CICA, a sentiment echoed by other key Democrats. In addition, at a committee hearing last year, Jim Jones, the EPA Assistant Administrator for Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, said that “some in the administration would have some problems” with the draft bill if it advanced, which has been interpreted as an implied veto threat. Nevertheless, whether Rep. Shimkus pursues a similar approach as last year or a more targeted one, at least some in the chemical industry are hopeful that this Congress can pass TSCA reform. Bill Allmond, vice president of government affairs at Society of Chemical Manufacturers and Affiliates (SOCMA), said he is optimistic that Rep. Pallone can encourage his Democrats “to be more open-minded than in the last Congress, on TSCA reform, specifically.”