Key House Dems slam talks on chemical safety bill

Key House Dems slam talks on chemical safety bill
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Leading House Democrats are lashing out at their Republican and Senate colleagues in their ongoing negotiations over reforming federal chemical safety laws.

Reps. Frank Pallone (N.J.) and Paul Tonko (N.Y.), the top Democrats on the Energy and Commerce Committee and its environment subcommittee, said negotiations over improvements to the chemical law have thus far resulted in a draft that’s worse than current law, and they’re abandoning support.

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The opposition from Pallone and Tonko, the top two House Democrats in the negotiations, could spell major trouble for efforts to reform the nearly 40-year-old Toxic Substances Control Act.

But since the negotiation process isn’t a formal legislative conference, other lawmakers involved could try to proceed without their support.

“We had hoped to support a strong TSCA bill that would empower the EPA to identify and manage dangerous chemicals, but the current draft is not only significantly weaker than the bipartisan deal we negotiated, it is actually weaker than current law,” Pallone and Tonko said in a Tuesday statement.

“Unfortunately, at this point, it would be better for us to not act at all than to pass the deal that Energy and Commerce Republican leaders and Senate negotiators are proposing,” they said.

The House and Senate passed different bipartisan reform measures last year. They aimed to dramatically improve TSCA, under which it is extremely difficult for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to limit sales of any harmful chemicals, including seemingly obvious ones like asbestos.

Since the negotiations are still behind closed doors, it wasn’t precisely clear what the main problems are for the Democrats.

Pallone in recent days had been objecting to provisions meant to severely limit animal testing.

Earlier Tuesday, other lawmakers were optimistic that a final, negotiated bill would be ready within days for the House and the Senate to vote.

Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.), chairman of the environment panel, told reporters Tuesday that the legislation is nearly complete, and he believes Congress could pass it without Pallone and Tonko’s support.

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Sen. Barbara BoxerBarbara Levy BoxerHispanic civil rights icon endorses Harris for president California AG Becerra included in Bloomberg 50 list Climate debate comes full circle MORE (D-Calif.), the top Democrat on the panel, who had objected to the Senate’s legislation up until she negotiated some changes weeks ago, said the process was almost complete.