The House Subcommittee on Environment and the Economy unanimously approved the Toxic Substances Control Act Modernization Act of 2015, a revised version of the bill first introduced by Subcommittee Chair Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL) last month to fix key flaws in the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). At today’s markup, Rep. Shimkus said he was “more encouraged than ever” that the outdated law would finally be modernized to meet the public’s expectations and protect human health and the environment.
Yesterday, Rep. Shimkus was joined by new co-sponsors Rep. Paul Tonko (D-NY), Ranking Member of the Subcommittee; Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI), Chair of the Energy and Commerce Committee; and Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ), Ranking Member of the full Committee, in unveiling changes to the draft bill and calling for the legislation’s passage. The changes addressed some of the most criticized and controversial aspects of the original draft and TSCA reform, including timelines for chemical assessments and federal preemption of state laws.
Rep. Shimkus emphasized that the revised legislation’s basic approach remained the same as in his original draft: empowering EPA to review existing chemicals on the market and “make science-based decisions about whether they pose an unreasonable risk of injury to human health or the environment.” Under the bill, EPA would first assess the safety of a chemical based on hazard and exposure. Cost and other economic factors, including benefits, would not be considered until the second step, when EPA chooses how to regulate the assessed chemical, and a “reasonable transition period” would be required.
Changes from the original bill include:
- Requires EPA to complete at least 10 chemical assessments per year and to issue risk management rules within 90 days completing an assessment;
- Creates an accelerated path for assessing persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic (PBT) substances;
- Sets different timelines for completing assessments depending on whether they are initiated by EPA or requested by industry;
- Explicitly preserves private causes of action and existing state laws not in conflict with TSCA, including California’s Proposition 65 and other chemical laws passed before August 1, 2015;
- Limits the effectiveness of federal preemption of state chemical laws until after EPA makes a final assessment decision;
- Ensures that user fees are spent only for specific purposes, rather than deposited in the Treasury’s General Fund;
- Allows EPA to issue five-year “critical use” exemptions for chemicals if the agency’s regulatory requirements would not be cost-effective for a specific use and EPA determines that application of the requirement “would significantly disrupt the national economy, national security, or critical infrastructure.”
While subpanel members were all supportive of the new draft, some remaining issues were highlighted. Rep. Shimkus encouraged a bipartisan effort to amend TSCA section 8, which the current draft does not address.
Both industry and environmental groups have voiced support for the new version of the bill. The American Chemistry Council called it “balanced” and “pragmatic,” while the Safer Chemicals Healthy Families coalition said the changes brought the legislation “within striking distance of meaningful, if limited, reform.”
The bill now proceeds to the full Energy and Commerce Committee, which may schedule a markup as soon as next week.