U.S. chemical law reform has the best chance to pass as we’ve seen since 1976.
Senator Lautenberg has not been in great health these past few months. His detractors in the US Senate, in powerful lobbies— and just in principle— seem to be softening a bit. We are witnessing the final months of the final term of one of the most legendary public servants in United States history. Whether you love him or prefer to dine at a different table, such a long and passionate career will certainly garner at least some of the respect it deserves. Not that Lautenberg is looking for respect. He’s looking for legacy: he wants to see chemical legislation reform happen in America, no matter what.
In what could be a final bid to make it happen, the Senator has introduced a new version of a bill that would update the Toxic Substances and Chemicals Act (TSCA). It is identical to the legislation that was sponsored by 30 Senators and reported favorably out of the Environment and Public Works Committee in the 112th Congress. Compared to earlier versions of the legislation, it includes a number of significant changes that reflected input from a broad range of stakeholders including federal agencies, state governments, the chemical industry, and public health advocates.
An update is something that almost everyone agrees must happen, from tree-huggers to the ACC to 77% of the US population. The disagreement, as ever, is in the specifics of the bill. TSCA reform is always held up on minutiae and absolutely nothing ever happens. However, with sentiment rising in favor of the august public servant, now is as likely a time as we’ve seen in the past 12 years to consider TSCA reform a real legislative possibility.
Under TSCA, EPA’s ability to protect human health and the environment from harmful chemicals is severely limited. These legal restrictions are so burdensome that, of the more than 84,000 chemicals on the inventory, EPA has been able to require health and safety testing of about 200, and banned only five, since TSCA was enacted in 1976.
Americans and even industry overwhelmingly support legislation to reform TSCA. Recent polling shows strong bipartisan support across the country, as well as strong support from small business owners.