Week ahead: House turns to chemical reform

House lawmakers will meet next week to discuss chemical reform legislation.

Two competing bills to reform the Toxic Substances Control Act have already been introduced in the Senate. But on Tuesday, the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Environment and the Economy will hold a hearing to discuss the draft of a new bill sponsored by Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.).

The proposed legislation would create a new system for the Environmental Protection Agency to evaluate and manage chemicals already on the market and set a 3-year deadline for risk evaluations of chemicals selected by the EPA. 

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Sens. Barbara BoxerBarbara Levy BoxerDems face hard choice for State of the Union response Billionaire Steyer to push for Dem House push Billionaire Steyer announces million for Dem House push MORE (D-Calif.) and Edward MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyDemocrats search for 51st net neutrality vote Overnight Regulation: Dems claim 50 votes in Senate to block net neutrality repeal | Consumer bureau takes first step to revising payday lending rule | Trump wants to loosen rules on bank loans | Pentagon, FDA to speed up military drug approvals Dems say they have 50 votes in Senate to overrule net neutrality repeal MORE (D-Mass.) are behind the Alan Reinstein and Trevor Schaefer Toxic Chemical Protection Act, while Sens. Tom UdallThomas (Tom) Stewart UdallCongress has been broken by the special interests – here’s how we fix it Senate GOP seeks to change rules for Trump picks Dems celebrate Jones victory in Alabama race MORE (D-N.M.) and David VitterDavid Bruce VitterWhere is due process in all the sexual harassment allegations? Not the Senate's job to second-guess Alabama voters The Senate 'ethics' committee is a black hole where allegations die MORE (R-La.) are pushing a bill named after the late Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.).

The fight has been heated at times, with Boxer and Markey accusing Udall and Vitter of letting industry draft their legislation. Boxer claims her bill is superior because it directs the EPA to regulate asbestos. Udall has said his bill does not single out one chemical because it gives the EPA the authority to regulate any of the 84,000 chemicals in commerce. 

Environmental groups that support the Boxer-Markey bill say they are still reviewing the legislation, but it appears to give states more authority to pass their own chemical laws than the Udall-Vitter bill, which preempts states from taking action on any chemical EPA deems a high priority and begins to review.

“The stripped-down framework of the House approach has some promise,” the advocacy group Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families said in a news release. “It compares favorably to the Senate bill on the timing of preemption and its lack of rollbacks to the federal program. At the same time, the fundamentals of reform, like the standard for EPA to act, have to be there and it’s not clear if they are.”

The Environmental Working Group, however, said the House bill falls short of what’s needed to ensure the chemicals in the products people use every day are safe.

“Simply put, this draft will not require that chemicals are safe before they’re used, won’t give EPA authority to quickly review and regulate the most dangerous chemicals, will not provide tough deadlines for regulating dangerous chemicals, and will not provide EPA with the necessary resources to get the job done,” EWG President and Co-founder Ken Cook said in a statement.

Elsewhere, the House Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing to discuss the Innovation Act, a bill authored by Chairman Bob GoodlatteRobert (Bob) William GoodlatteFreedom Caucus chair: GOP leaders don't have votes to avoid shutdown Sessions: 'We should be like Canada' in how we take in immigrants GOP leaders pitch children's health funding in plan to avert shutdown MORE (R-Va.) to address abusive patent litigation. Kevin Kramer, the vice president and deputy general counsel for intellectual property at Yahoo, is expected to testify.

On Wednesday, the EPA also has a big day in court, as the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia hears oral arguments in a challenge to the agency’s carbon limits on existing power plants.

 

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