Last month, we reported that the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works had scheduled a full-committee hearing on various legislative proposals to reform TSCA. The hearing on July 31 consisted of three panels with a total of 19 witnesses including public health advocates, legal and health experts, representatives from state government and the private sector. The hearings and archived webcast are available online.
At the hearing, Committee Chair Barbara Boxer (D-CA) expressed her continued support for the Safe Chemicals Act (S. 696) and criticized the bipartisan Chemical Security Improvement Act (“CSIA,” S. 1009). Sen. Boxer took particular issue with the legislation’s effect on preempting state laws such as California’s Proposition 65, but nevertheless, vowed to continue working on the bill with the hope of enacting TSCA reform as soon as possible. Senator David Vitter (R-LA), a co-author of CSIA, said that he was already at work with Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) on amending his legislation to address the preemption concern.
Since the hearing, Congress has been in recess and there has been little news on how the amendment process is going. In the meantime, the CSIA’s advocates and detractors continue to make their case in the public forum. Last week, Steve Owens, who served as EPA assistant administrator for the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention during President Obama’s first term, wrote on RealClearPolicy in support of the bill. Owens played down preemption concerns, arguing that TSCA was originally intended to preempt state efforts and that the CSIA provides for states to apply to EPA for a waiver that would keep state laws in place. He also pointed out that the CSIA’s sponsors had pledged to amend the bill to address other preemption issues. Earlier this month, Alex Formuzis of the Environmental Working Group criticized the CSIA and called on members of the public health and environmental community to rally behind Sen. Boxer’s efforts in shepherding strong TSCA reform legislation to the Senate floor. In California, state legislators introduced a mostly symbolic resolution that calls on Congress and the President to “respect the rights of states to protect the health of their citizens” and not enact the CSIA in its current form.