Coalition criticizes Lautenberg’s chemical safety overhaul

Bipartisan legislation seeking to modernize the Toxic Substances Control Act doesn’t go far enough to protect the public and the environment, a key chemical safety coalition has concluded.

Championed by the late Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), the Senate bill would overhaul the outdated 1976 statute under which chemicals are regulated. Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) co-authored the legislation, which has been co-sponsored by eight Senate Democrats and eight Senate Republicans.

ADVERTISEMENT
The bill would require every active chemical in commerce to be evaluated and designated as either a high or low priority, based on the level of danger it presents to human health or the environment.  High-risk chemicals would be subject to restrictions ranging in scope from basic labeling requirements to an outright ban from the marketplace.

Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families, a coalition of scores of public health and environmental groups, praised the bipartisan effort as “sincere," but announced via a statement Monday afternoon that it would not support the bill in its current form. 

The coalition offered a series of changes.

“These proposed improvements fit within the framework of the Chemical Safety Improvement Act and we offer them in the spirit of promoting bi-partisan cooperation to enact a program that protects public health and the environment, and drives innovation,” the coalition wrote.

Among the recommended changes is explicit language directing the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to protect children, pregnant women and other vulnerable populations.

The coalition is also pressing for language ensuring that state chemical safety laws are not preempted, expedited action on the most dangerous chemicals and a firm set of deadlines and timetables.

“The history of environmental laws is that they achieve their clearest results with such provisions,” the coalition wrote. “The sponsors and the committee should develop clear deadlines and minimum work requirements to ensure that EPA has the incentive and resources it needs to implement the new law.”

Lautenberg and Vitter introduced the Chemical Safety Improvement Act on May 22. The Environment and Public Works Committee has yet to take action on the measure, though it is seen as having a path forward, given its bipartisan backing.