Congressional subcommittee reviews CSIA, EPA reveals its views.

As we reported last week, the House Subcommittee on Environment and the Economy held a hearing to review the Chemical Safety Improvement Act (S. 1009) (CSIA) on November 13, 2013. At the hearing, EPA for the first time revealed its views on a number of CSIA provisions, although it has not developed a formal position on the Act.

Jim Jones, EPA assistant administrator of the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, was among the ten witnesses who testified at the hearing. During the questioning period of the hearing, Jones identified areas of CSIA that were improvements over TSCA, such as the requirement under Section 5 for an affirmative finding of safety by EPA on new chemical notifications, the ability to use order authority under Section 4 to obtain testing, and the ability to share confidential business information (CBI) with states.

Jones also identified issues that warranted further discussion, such as whether the requirement under Section 6 for extensive analysis of alternatives could lead to “paralysis by analysis,” whether judicial review of “low priority” decisions should be barred, and whether consideration of vulnerable populations under safety assessments should be extended to safety determinations and risk management actions. In addition, Jones called for a better balance of preemption issues, stronger deadlines, and clearer testing requirements under Section 4.

At the hearing, Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) said that he and Senator David Vitter (R-LA) were focused on three main issues: making sure EPA has the tools it needs to protect citizens and review the existing chemicals in commerce, preserving private rights of action against companies, and protecting the ability of states to safeguard their citizens. A day earlier, Sen. Vitter had made a renewed push for the CSIA’s passage, following a National Research Council (NRC) report that recommended improvements in the EPA’s assessment of inorganic arsenic. Sen. Vitter cited the report as a “prime example of why EPA’s risks assessments are flawed,” and called it “embarrassing” that EPA needed supervision in one of its key roles.

However, the overall tone at the hearing was very courteous among the Committee members and between the Chair and the witnesses. Sen. Vitter stressed his and Sen. Udall’s willingness to work with anyone committed to meaningful bipartisan reform, and most of those present at the hearing promised continued attempts to reach a consensus bill.