Since our last update, U.S. lawmakers and other stakeholders have kept busy with competing legislation to reform the Toxic Substance Control Act (TSCA), with the hope of bringing the issue to the Senate floor for debate before the August Congressional recess. The TSCA Modernization Act of 2015 (H.R. 2567) passed the House by a vote of 398-1 on June 23, while the Udall-Vitter bill (S. 697), which was approved by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee in April, continues to await scheduling for a floor vote.
Last week, Democratic supporters of the bipartisan Udall-Vitter bill urged Senate leaders to bring the bill to a floor vote “as soon as possible.” In a letter addressed to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), thirteen senators lauded S. 697 as “stronger and more comprehensive” than the House bill. The lawmakers criticized the House bill for creating a “virtually unlimited pathway for chemicals favored for review by industry.” The Democrats also took issue with the House bill for failing to overhaul the new chemical review program, provide for an independent funding mechanism, limit animal testing, or mandate EPA to review Confidential Business Information (CBI) claims.
A vocal critic of S. 697, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) joined a group of environmental and public health organizations in lobbying for adoption of the more limited House bill, which she called “the best approach for meaningful TSCA reform.” Led by the Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families coalition, 57 advocacy groups sent a letter [PDF] advocating the House bill as “more appropriate to use as the vehicle for changes as the process moves forward.” The coalition stressed that if the Senate proceeds with S. 697, then the bill’s “primarily failings” – including provisions regarding state preemption and the “low-priority loophole” – must be addressed.