Historic overhaul of the primary law governing the safety of chemical products in the U.S.—the Toxic Substances Control Act (“TSCA”)—has, after long delay, passed in the Senate. With agreement from all sides that the law is long overdue for modernization and reform, lawmakers have been working for years to update and reform TSCA. Enacted in 1976, TSCA has never been significantly amended and the current legislation is poised to massively overhaul U.S. EPA’s authority over chemicals in commerce.
In June 2015, the House of Representatives passed the bipartisan TSCA Modernization Act (H.R. 2576). The bill’s key provisions prohibit EPA from considering costs in chemical safety assessments, afford EPA more power to order new chemical safety data and testing, and through preemption aim to create a more uniform regulatory system throughout the country.
An alternative Senate bill, the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act (S. 697), has been held in committee for months. Lawmakers in the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee have worked tirelessly to amend and present a final bill to the full Senate, but had met with strong opposition from California Senator Barbara Boxer. Boxer’s concerns about the bill appear to have been addressed and a revised version passed unanimously on a voice vote yesterday. The final text of the bill has not yet been released, but the it likely retained key provisions that removed the requirement that EPA consider costs in safety determinations, provided EPA more power to order testing and require information from companies, ensured special protections for those most vulnerable from chemicals, and required active chemicals in commerce to be evaluated and labeled based upon their risk to the environment and the population.
The bill now moves to a joint conference committee, where remaining differences between the House and Senate bills will be reconciled before the bill makes it to President Obama’s desk.