Yesterday, the House Energy and Commerce’s Subcommittee on Environment and the Economy held its fifth hearing on the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). In its last hearing on the subject for the 113th Congress, Subcommittee members focused on TSCA sections 4 and 8, which govern chemical testing and information reporting and retention requirements. (We previously covered Subcommittee hearings on TSCA here and here.)
In his opening remarks, Subcommittee Chair John Shimkus (R-IL) expressed his interest in reconsidering EPA’s authority to “produce tailored, necessary and high quality test data and other information to carry out TSCA.” Rep. Shimkus also highlighted the need to reexamine section 8’s exemptions to reporting requirements and the definition of “processor.”
Both Republican and Democratic members emphasized the importance of sending TSCA modernization legislation to the President this year. Committee Ranking Member Henry Waxman (D-CA) offered to work with Rep. Shimkus, whose office has reportedly been developing TSCA reform legislation without input from any Democratic members. Rep. Waxman also pointed out that the public interest community is deeply concerned with the bipartisan Senate bill known as the Chemical Safety Improvement Act (CSIA) and noted that the American Chemistry Council and Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families coalition had in 2011 identified and documented areas of agreement in a mediated discussion. Rep. Waxman and Subcommittee Ranking Member Paul Tonko (R-NY) sent a letter to the two organizations requesting this documentation in the hope that it might “provide a blueprint for legislative success.”
Hearing witnesses from the private and public sectors all voiced their support for TSCA modernization. Industry members called for a flexible, prioritized risk-based approach to screening and assessing chemicals. Public sector witnesses advocated for significant reform of TSCA’s testing and reporting requirements, including making it easier for EPA to require testing from manufacturers, especially for vulnerable populations such as children and pregnant women, and increasing transparency for data currently protectable as Confidential Business Information (CBI).
The January 9 chemical spill in West Virginia prompted witnesses and Democratic members to question the adequacy of TSCA’s data collection, pointing out the lack of basic health and safety data on the contaminant in that spill. Also on Tuesday, the Senate Subcommittee on Water and Wildlife, part of the Environment and Public Works Committee, held a hearing on the safety and security of drinking water supplies. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) testified at that hearing, calling for stronger chemical storage standards and more frequent safety inspections, as well as TSCA reform.