Chemical industry sees improved prospects for passing TSCA modernization in new Congress.

In the wake of last week’s Republican takeover of Congress, the chemical industry is optimistic that Congress will be able to quickly pass legislation updating the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). Cal Dooley, the president of the American Chemistry Council (ACC), told journalists yesterday that the legislation proposed by Senators David Vitter (R-LA) and Tom Udall (D-NM) would “see committee action relatively soon in the congressional session,” since Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), who opposed the bipartisan Chemical Safety Improvement Act (CSIA), will be replaced as chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee by Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK).

Dooley also said he expected further developments in the House Energy and Commerce Committee, where Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL) has already introduced and held hearings on his proposed Chemicals in Commerce Act (CICA).

Although it remains unclear if enough Senate Democrats will support the CSIA, or if President Obama would back a law that preempts state restrictions, Dooley predicted that TSCA reform would pass both the House and Senate and be signed into law next year.

Industry group questions EPA's trend toward eliminating TSCA's articles exemption.

This week, Bloomberg BNA reported that American Chemistry Council attorneys recently met with representatives of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to ask that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) be required to conduct further information-gathering on a proposed rule under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) that would regulate benzidine-based dyes, among other chemicals. The proposed Significant New Use Rule (SNUR), published in March 2012, would add nine chemicals to the SNUR already listed at 40 C.F.R. § 721.1660 and make unavailable the customary “articles exemption,” which exempts persons processing or importing the regulated chemicals as part of an article. Under this SNUR, importers or processors of articles containing benzidine-based dyes would have to provide 90-day advance notice to EPA. According to Bloomberg BNA, the ACC told OMB of its concern that the proposed SNUR “lacked a rationale explaining how or why the EPA decided it was necessary to regulate articles rather than focus solely on chemicals as it typically does in new use rules.”

In its June 2012 comments on the proposed rule, the ACC noted that the proposed revocation of the articles exemption “herald[s] a shift by the Agency towards greater regulation of chemicals in articles.” The ACC argued that removing the articles exemption “should be limited to exceptional circumstances” and be “based on sound criteria,” and recommended that EPA “define a clear policy framework including criteria for determining when TSCA regulation of articles is appropriate. In any proposed SNUR, the Agency should present a compelling basis for a decision to apply a SNUR to articles.”

The OMB’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) reviews all significant rulemaking before publication, and may return an agency rule for further consideration and review if, for example, OIRA finds that the proposed rule is not justified by the analysis.

The articles restriction in the benzidine-based dyes SNUR is in line with other recent SNURs regulating articles; Bloomberg BNA reports that since 2012, EPA has proposed at least four SNURs that would eliminate the articles exemption for certain chemicals, including the 2013 rule on carpets containing long-chain perfluoralkyl carboxylates.