Since its introduction in late May, the bipartisan Chemical Safety Improvement Act of 2013 (“CSIA,” S. 1009) has already had an eventful history which looks like it will get even more interesting next week when the Senate Environment and Public Works (“EPW”) Committee holds a day-long hearing on reforming federal chemical law. The hearing, scheduled for July 31, will focus on the CSIA but also consider other proposals to reform the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act (“TSCA”) – the only major environmental statute that hasn’t been updated since its initial passage.
The CSIA, introduced by Senator David Vitter (R-LA) and the late Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), has already been the subject of two House committee hearings. The bill was introduced just weeks before the death of Sen. Lautenberg, who was known for his dedication to pollution protection and public health, and some have called for its passage as a tribute to his legacy. The CSIA is backed by industry and some environmental groups, but has been criticized by other environmental groups and consumer and health advocates who argue that the bill is critically flawed; for example, if passed, the law might override state consumer safety laws like California’s Proposition 65, which require warnings on products that contain certain chemicals. In California, Attorney General Kamala Harris and the state’s Department of Toxic Substances Control have expressed concern that the bill could not only preempt Prop. 65 but also derail the state’s nascent green chemistry regulations.
Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), who chairs the Senate EPW Committee and co-sponsored some of Sen. Lautenberg’s previous TSCA reform proposals, is reportedly planning a major overhaul of the bill “that would amount to starting over.” Sen. Boxer’s goal is to combine parts of the Chemical Safety Improvement Act with parts of the Safe Chemicals Act of 2013 (S. 696). The Safe Chemicals Act was introduced by Sen. Lautenberg in April 2013 without Republican support, and mirrors legislation that passed the Senate EPW committee last year. Details on the hearing, including the witness list, are not yet available.