EPA largely prefers Senate’s chemical safety bill

EPA largely prefers Senate’s chemical safety bill
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The Obama administration prefers many aspects of the Senate’s chemical safety reform bill to those in matching House legislation, it told leading lawmakers.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) outlined its thoughts on the competing bills in a January letter, obtained by The Hill, to the lawmakers negotiating a resolution between the bills.

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Both bills aim to improve upon the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976, under which it has been extraordinarily difficult for the EPA to actually ban any harmful substances, such as asbestos.

The EPA found a lot to like in the Senate’s bill, often preferring its provisions on various issues over the House’s.

“The administration appreciates that Congress took a comprehensive look at TSCA when it developed its reform bills,” the EPA said.

Also on Thursday, Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonIntel Dem decries White House 'gag order' after Bannon testimony 'Total free-for-all' as Bannon clashes with Intel members Mellman: On Political Authenticity (Part 2) MORE weighed in on the controversy over toxic chemical reform and criticized key pieces of the House’s legislation.

The EPA’s letter, first reported by Politico, said the Senate’s bill looked better than the House version on setting deadlines for the EPA’s action, eliminating the requirement that the “least burdensome” potential regulations be enacted, funding the EPA’s activities and investigating how newly developed chemicals are treated.

But the House took a better approach on issues like the implementation requirements put upon the EPA, the agency said in its letter.

The EPA stopped well short of endorsing either chamber’s bill, and it thanked both the House and Senate for the effort.

A House aide said Reps. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.), the leaders of the Energy and Commerce Committee, sent an offer to the Senate last week as the first formal step in negotiating toward a bill. 
 
The offer would resolve many of the big issues that the EPA identified, including putting a cap on manufacturer-initiated risk evaluations, expanding EPA funding for the program and a mechanism for safety decisions on new chemicals.

The Senate passed its bill in December, and the House bill passed last summer.

Clinton used the recent drinking water contamination problem in Hoosick Falls, N.Y., Thursday to push for better chemical regulation.

“We need a strong TSCA modernization that will allow EPA to evaluate the thousands of hazardous chemicals in use today for health and environmental risks; improve consumer confidence and give the public accurate information about the risks of different substances; and set effective federal standards while still allowing for leadership at the state level,” she said.

“What we don’t need is a TSCA modernization bill with special carve-outs protecting companies from liability for known carcinogens, like PCBs, which were banned in the original law back in 1976. The House bill has such a loophole, and it should be removed,” Clinton added.

The House bill includes a provision to reduce liability for companies that used to manufacture polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). Monsanto Co. used to produce nearly all of the nation’s PCBs, and is the target of multiple lawsuits, The New York Times reported.