Chemical reform bill is 'deeply problematic,' law experts say

Law professors from around the country say they have “serious reservations” about the new chemical reform bill introduced by Sens. Tom UdallThomas (Tom) Stewart UdallDemocrats press Pompeo to help Americans stranded abroad amid coronavirus Democrats press FEC pick to recuse himself from Trump matters Overnight Energy: Watchdog blasts planning behind BLM relocation | Progress on Senate energy bill | Dems eye two measures for inclusion ahead of vote MORE (D-N.M.) and David VitterDavid Bruce VitterBottom line The biggest political upsets of the decade Red-state governor races put both parties on edge MORE (R-La.)  

Days before the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee is expected to discuss the legislation, a group of 25 professors and public interest lawyers sent a letter to committee Chairman Jim InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofeGOP senators urge Saudi Arabia to leave OPEC Overnight Defense: Stimulus bill has .5B for Pentagon | Money would be blocked from border wall | Esper orders 60-day freeze for overseas troop movements Senate panel switches to 'paper hearings' amid coronavirus pandemic MORE (R-Okla.) and ranking member Barbara BoxerBarbara Levy BoxerPolls show big bounce to Biden ahead of Super Tuesday Sanders poised for big Super Tuesday Establishment Democrats rallying behind Biden MORE (D-Calif.)

ADVERTISEMENT

Co-signers include Thomas Cluderay, general counsel for the Environmental Working Group (EWG), which has been one of the most vocal outliers of the Udall-Vitter bill.

The letter said the proposed legislation preserves the same inadequate safety standard used in the current Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) of 1976.

“Although the Vitter-Udall proposal incorporates into its safety standard definition a prohibition against considering cost and non-risk factors, the definition remains ambiguous and — notably —completely contradictory to other sections of the Vitter-Udall proposal,” said the letter signed by Hope Babcock, a law professor at Georgetown University Law Center; David Driesen, university professor at Syracuse University College of Law; and Perry Wallace, a law professor at the American University Washington College of Law.

By leaving the term “unreasonable risk” undefined, the groups said the courts are likely to interpret Congress’ intent as it has been previously construed in case law, as still requiring a cost-benefit analysis.

“Given the contradictions around consideration of costs and benefits throughout the Vitter-Udall Proposal and the ambiguity of the safety standard, it is deeply problematic from a public health perspective,” the letter went on to say. “To ensure that this Congress’s TSCA reform efforts produce a statute that is better than the status quo, any legislative fix must use the truly health-protective safety standard, a “reasonable certainty of no harm.”  

The Senate EPW Committee is expected to hear testimony from Edward McCabe, senior vice president and chief medical officer for the March of Dimes Foundation, and EWG President and Co-founder Ken Cook during Wednesday's hearing.