On Tuesday, members of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee reviewed the draft proposal introduced last week by Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL) to modernize the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). The “TSCA Modernization Act of 2015,” takes a narrower approach to TSCA reform compared to previous proposals, and was crafted with input from members of both parties. The current bill is a “discussion draft,” and Rep. Shimkus announced that he planned to incorporate changes to it before holding a markup on May 14.
Lawmakers and witnesses alike agreed that significant progress had been made in working toward a much-needed update of the nation’s primary chemicals law, which was signed into law in 1976. The Subcommittee heard testimony from officials representing the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, American Chemistry Council, and Society of Chemical Manufacturers and Affiliates, and Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families, as well as Jim Jones, the EPA Assistant Administrator for Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention.
Industry representatives were generally supportive of the bill, particularly its provisions on testing existing chemicals and improving risk management, and concluded that the sections on state preemption and co-enforcement were appropriate. However, because the proposal does not provide a detailed prioritization plan for screening chemicals or specific timelines for risk assessment, the industry witnesses emphasized the need for Congress and the White House to provide EPA with sufficient resources to accelerate the review of existing chemicals and that the bill should be amended to direct TSCA fee revenue to EPA for implementing TSCA, rather than to the general treasury. The chemical trade group representatives also called for various changes to the proposed TSCA Inventory “reset,” so, e.g., manufacturers would not have to submit new Pre-Manufacture Notices for substances that EPA removes from the Inventory and processors would be subject to reporting requirements on use and exposure data.
Assistant Administrator Jones acknowledged that the proposal complies with the Obama Administration’s principles for TSCA reform, but called for clarity on various issues, including the prioritization process and how EPA should consider cost when evaluating risk. Jones emphasized that funding was a major constraint on how many chemicals EPA can review each year, and even assessments requested and paid for by industry could not be completed within the “unrealistically optimistic” six-month timeframe proposed in the discussion draft. Jones expressed concern that by letting industry request unlimited assessments without a prioritization scheme or required minimum for agency-initiated assessments, the review process could be exploited to “delay evaluations for some of the most dangerous chemicals indefinitely.”
Andy Igrejas, director of the Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families coalition of environmental, public health, labor and other organizations, testified on several positive elements he saw in the draft as well as several areas of concern. According to Igrejas, the bill would not “fix the fundamental barrier in current law to EPA imposing risk management on an unsafe chemical,” because EPA would be required to conduct a cost-effectiveness analysis as to whether a chemical’s risk should be mitigated. Igrejas also testified that the legislation should include a “grandfather clause” for state laws that have “become settled matters of public health policy.” Despite these and other problems, Igrejas said the bill could be fixed with small changes to the language.