In a move that surprised even the most seasoned Washington insiders, on May 22, Senators Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) and David Vitter (R-La.) announced they were introducing a bipartisan compromise bill that would significantly overhaul the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), the primary federal statute governing chemical substances.
The bill, the Chemical Safety Improvement Act of 2013 (S. 1009), comes in response to increasing public concern about the dangers of toxic chemicals and a growing number of states advancing their own chemicals reform initiatives. While most agree the 37-year old TSCA is in bad need of an update, earlier versions of reform offered by Sen. Lautenberg during previous sessions of Congress failed to garner meaningful bipartisan support.
The Chemical Safety Improvement Act (CSIA), however, boasts an unprecedented level of bipartisan support, with 20 Democratic and Republican co-sponsors, and has won praise from various industry and environmental groups alike. In a May 22 press release, the American Chemistry Council called it, “a balanced, comprehensive approach to updating the law, which will give consumers more confidence in the safety of chemicals, while at the same time encouraging innovation, economic growth and job creation by American manufacturers.”
Meanwhile, Environmental Defense Fund Senior Scientist Richard Dennison said, “This bill is both a policy and political breakthrough. It gives EPA vital new tools to identify chemicals of both high and low concern, and to reduce exposure to those that pose risks. And while this bill represents a hard-fought compromise, it opens, at last, a bipartisan path forward to fix our badly outmoded system to ensure the safety of chemicals in everyday use.”
Among other things, S. 1009 would:
• Require EPA to evaluate, and then label all active chemicals in commerce as either “high” or “low” priority based on potential risk to human health and the environment. EPA would be required to conduct further safety evaluations for high priority chemicals, taking into account potential exposures and intended uses for the substance in making any determinations. During this process, chemicals being reviewed would be allowed to remain in commerce.
• Grant EPA authority to take action if a chemical is found to be unsafe. This could include using tools such as labeling requirements, phase-outs and bans.
• Require EPA to be transparent in assessing risk, determining safety, and applying any needed measures to manage risks.
• Require new chemicals entering the market to undergo safety screenings and give EPA the authority to prohibit their entering the market if found unsafe. However, while earlier versions of TSCA reform would have required manufacturers to submit extensive minimum data sets to facilitate EPA evaluations, S. 1009 only requires manufacturers to create new data if the agency concludes it cannot make an assessment based on existing data.
• Create substantive preemption provisions, among other things, prohibiting new state restrictions on substances that have been designated as either “high priority” or “low priority” by EPA until the risk assessment is complete and preempting future and existing state or local chemical regulatory restrictions after EPA has issued safety determinations.
• Promote both innovation and safer chemistry by offering clear paths to marketing new chemicals while protecting trade secrets and intellectual property from disclosure.
• Require EPA to evaluate the risks posed to vulnerable populations, such as children and pregnant women.
While the strong support in the Senate and from several key environmental and industry groups is encouraging for TSCA reform supporters, Senator Lautenberg’s recent death has raised questions about the bill’s path forward, although recent reports suggest Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) will assume the role of the lead Democratic co-sponsor. Meanwhile, environmental groups like the Natural Resources Defense Council have criticized the bill, saying it waters down key provisions of Sen. Lautenberg’s earlier legislation, and it’s unclear how the bill will fare in the U.S. House of Representatives, which has yet to offer a similar bill in the current Congress.
Regardless, even if the CSIA doesn’t pass in its current form, this bipartisan bill suggests that lawmakers have made significant progress on the issue. Coupled with growing public interest and an increasing number of states moving forward with their own reform measures, it appears likely we will see some version of a TSCA overhaul in the not-so-distant future. As always, we will keep you posted about developments as they unfold.
To view the Chemical Safety Improvement Act of 2013, visit: http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c113:S.1009:.
Miscellaneous tariff bill update
There is still no clear sign as to when Congress intends to advance the Miscellaneous Tariff Bill (MTB). As regular readers will recall, the MTB is a package of bills that provides temporary duty relief (usually for a period of 2-3 years) on essential manufacturing inputs that are not available in the U.S, including various categories of viscose rayon staple fibers. Duty relief benefits for rayon and hundreds of other needed imports expired at the end of 2012, imposing unnecessary costs on U.S. manufacturers.
INDA has continued to work closely with the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) industry coalition supporting MTB passage. Among other things, the MTB coalition has been meeting with Capitol Hill lawmakers to remind lawmakers of the importance of this measure and its impact on U.S. manufacturers’ competitiveness. Unfortunately, these efforts have done little to get an already distracted and dysfunctional Congress to focus. This means we need to continue our push, and we need your help.
What you can do
The most effective way to get the MTB moving is for members of Congress to hear how their inaction has the consequences of damaging competitiveness and threatening jobs. You can get involved by sending email letters to your House and Senate lawmakers telling them to pass the MTB as quickly as possible. To request a template letter and instructions on how to send the letter to your elected members of Congress, contact INDA Director of Government Affairs Jessica Franken at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In addition, the NAM coalition has launched an MTB webpage, which includes a ticker of how many days have passed since the MTB expired, other MTB-related resources and links to blog posts provided by NAM members. If your company is willing to tell its MTB story on the NAM blog, please contact NAM Director of International Trade Policy Jessica Lemos at email@example.com and she will assist you in developing a draft.
To access the NAM coalition MTB webpage, visit: www.nam.org/Issues/Trade/Miscellaneous-Tariff-Bill.aspx.