House Subcommittee convenes hearing on role of TSCA preemption.

On September 18, 2013, the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Environment and the Economy held its third in a series of hearings on Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) issues. The hearing focused on TSCA’s section 6, which relates to unreasonable risk from existing chemical substances, and section 18, which relates to preemption.

Section 6 has become a focal point for determining TSCA’s effectiveness in regulating hazardous chemicals. During the hearing, members of the subcommittee discussed the concepts of “unreasonable risk” and “least burdensome” alternatives, which have been pivotal in how the EPA approaches restricting or banning chemical use. Other issues raised by members of the subcommittee include whether the section 6 standard should be changed to eliminate cost-benefit analysis when EPA regulates existing chemicals, and the effects of the Corrosion Proof Fittings decision on EPA’s willingness to use its section 6 authority. Members disagreed over which aspect of the decision was more problematic—the court’s interpretation of the “least burdensome” requirement or the deficiencies in EPA rulemakings.

Section 18, which addresses when TSCA can pre-empt state law, has become particularly contentious in discussions about the draft Chemical Safety Improvement Act (CSIA). In the absence of federal action, U.S. states have enacted many local laws regulating certain chemicals, and they are concerned that proposed changes to TSCA might prevent these state laws from working effectively. Specific issues raised regarding TSCA preemption include the need for automobile manufacturers to have one national program for chemical regulation and for states to have access to confidential business information (CBI) in order to protect human health and the environment.

The Subcommittee’s background memorandum and an archived webcast of the September 18, 2013 hearing are available online.