The House of Representatives has now joined the Senate in moving toward reforming the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). Yesterday, the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Environment and the Economy announced that it will hold a legislative hearing on a “discussion draft” of the “TSCA Modernization Act” on April 14. The newly unveiled proposal [PDF] comes from Subcommittee Chair Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL), who led last year’s unsuccessful TSCA reform effort in the House. As expected, the draft is significantly narrower in scope than either of the current Senate proposals or Rep. Shimkus’ “Chemicals in Commerce Act,” introduced one year ago.
The draft bill establishes a new system for EPA to evaluate and manage risks for chemicals already on the market, including testing authority, and excises the requirement that EPA take the “least burdensome” regulatory approach to managing risks from harmful chemicals. Instead, when developing a rule to manage a chemical’s risks, the agency would have to consider factors including benefits of the chemical substance, economic consequences, and cost-effectiveness. Under the new system, manufacturers would be able to designate chemicals for risk evaluation, in which case, manufacturers would pay the administrative costs EPA incurs in conducting the evaluation. In addition, the proposal sets timelines for completion of risk evaluations: three years for EPA-selected substances, and 180 days for evaluations initiated by manufacturers. However, there are no provisions for capping the number of evaluations industry can fast-track, or for requiring a minimum number of evaluations to be completed.
The bill would adopt a new safety standard requiring EPA to determine if there is “a reasonable basis for concluding that the combination of hazard from and exposure to the chemical substance under the intended conditions of use has the potential to be high enough to present an unreasonable risk to health or the environment.”
Notably, Rep. Shimkus’ proposal provides a more limited preemption of state laws, overriding them only once EPA has made a final decision on a chemical’s safety. However, there is no grandfather clause exempting California’s Proposition 65, which is included in the legislation from Senators Tom Udall (D-NM) and David Vitter (R-LA).
Rep. Shimkus’ bill authorizes certain state, local, and tribal government officials and healthcare professionals to access Confidential Business Information (CBI), on request, when responding to an environmental release or, in the case of healthcare professionals, to assist in the diagnosis or treatment of patients. It also proposes a system to renew CBI claims after ten years.
In the Subcommittee’s press release, Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr., (D-NJ), Ranking Member of the full committee, called the draft “a good starting point.”
Next week’s hearing will include testimony from EPA Assistant Administrator Jim Jones, of the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention. Other panelists have yet to be named.