Democrats push overhaul of chemical laws

All sides agree the toxic substances act needs a serious update.

Environmentalists and health groups have long complained the TSCA doesn’t provide the Environmental Protection Agency enough power to restrict use of hazardous chemicals.

One significant change called for in both versions requires chemical companies to show the Environmental Protection Agency that their chemicals are safe for use. Now EPA has to prove the chemicals are unsafe.

According to a summary of the bill Lautenberg’s office released, EPA has only required testing for about 200 chemicals in the 80,000 in the agency’s inventory. EPA has regulated only limited uses of five chemicals.

Chemical companies say they are willing to accept tougher federal enforcement to avoid a patchwork of state restrictions on chemicals.

American Chemistry Council CEO Cal Dooley said parts of the legislation reflect a list of principles the industry supports. These include the need to prioritize chemicals for evaluation, a “risk-based approach” to EPA safety reviews, and a reduction in animal testing.

But ACC was less happy about other parts of the bill: “We are concerned that the bill’s proposed decision-making standard may be legally and technically impossible to meet.  The proposed changes to the new chemicals program could hamper innovation in new products, processes and technologies. In addition, the bill undermines business certainty by allowing states to adopt their own regulations and create a lack of regulatory uniformity for chemicals and the products that use them.”

(Dooley is holding a press conference at 2:30, so check back for updates.)

The BlueGreen Alliance, a coalition of labor and environmental groups, commended Democrats for introducing the legislation.

“Requiring the chemical industry to prove the safety of chemicals, and ensuring that workers are notified if a safety determination is not issued by EPA, are important to ensuring the health and safety of the public and workers,” the group said in a statement.

In the House, Reps. Henry Waxman and Bobby Rush released a “discussion draft” of legislation. You can see the draft here.