Senators Announce Bipartisan Bill to Modernize TSCA.

The prospects for TSCA reform just improved considerably with Wednesday’s announcement of a bipartisan agreement to overhaul the chemical safety law.

Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) led a group of 16 senators from both parties in unveiling the Chemical Safety Improvement Act of 2013 [PDF]. The compromise legislation has already been praised by industry groups, including the American Chemistry Council, as well as public health advocates like the Environmental Defense Fund.

The Act’s chief innovation is its framework for ensuring that all chemicals are screened for safety to human health and the environment. Under the new legislation, EPA would make safety determinations for chemicals based on intended conditions of use and a risk-based assessment integrating hazard, use, and exposure information.

New chemicals would have to first pass safety screening before entering the market. Chemicals already in commerce would also undergo safety evaluations, which would be prioritized based on the substance’s risk to human health and the environment, and high-priority chemicals would undergo further safety testing by EPA. In an effort to reduce duplicative testing, EPA would be authorized to rely on existing information as well as to collect safety data from chemical manufacturers. In addition, EPA would be required to evaluate risks to vulnerable populations, like children or pregnant women, in assessing the safety of each chemical.

The bill also authorizes EPA to employ a wide range of risk management measures on unsafe chemicals, from ordering additional labeling requirements to imposing an all-out ban.

As we previously reported, Sen. Lautenberg introduced a similar bill to modernize TSCA in April, but it only won support among his fellow Democrats. The new compromise bill was criticized by the Environmental Working Group as “unacceptably weak,” but its bipartisan support means it likely has a better chance at approval in the Senate.