A draft bill aiming to reform the Toxic Substances Control Act would require EPA to categorize chemicals as “high priority” or “low priority” and would preempt state and local regulations when EPA issues rules and restrictions on specific chemicals.
The draft bill “reforms the law to ensure a transparent, workable and risk-based process for chemical review and regulation,” the House Energy and Commerce Committee said.
“It would create a commonsense prioritization and evaluation program for all existing chemicals in commerce and establish a uniform federal standard to help better facilitate interstate commerce in chemicals and other downstream U.S. manufactured goods,” the committee said in a news release. “The bill would also broaden access to specific chemical information while maintaining protection of intellectual property."
The Chemicals in Commerce Act would require EPA to determine whether or not existing chemicals pose “an unreasonable risk of harm to human health or the environment” and classify them either as low priority or high priority, according to a summary by U.S. Rep. John Shimkus (R.-Ill.), who introduced the draft bill on Feb. 27.
High-priority chemicals “would be subject to rigorous scientific examination by EPA."
“A chemical determined to pose an unreasonable risk of harm would be subject to a rule restricting its use or imposing other appropriate requirements such as worker safeguards or consumer product labeling,” the summary explains.
The bill would make chemical-specific EPA regulations the law of the land. If EPA were to promulgate a new rule restricting the use of a chemical, the rule would preempt state and local restriction on the chemical. The same scenario would apply if the agency were to determine that a chemical likely doesn’t pose an unreasonable risk of harm to the public.
“Over the past year, our subcommittee has set out on a comprehensive review of chemical regulation,” Shimkus said. “We held a total of five hearings examining what has worked in the current law and what can be improved. Through our evaluation, we determined that in order to have a system that works best for public safety and our economy, we must modernize the regulatory process.”
'A Gross Disappointment'
Shimkus asserted that the bill “is essential to America’s manufacturing renaissance.”
“The legislation will improve market access to U.S. goods by instilling public confidence in the safety of U.S. products, establishing a new worldwide gold standard for chemical products stamped ‘Made in America,’” Shimkus said. “The bill will also open pathways for interstate commerce by replacing today’s patchwork of state-by-state chemical regulation with a single market where each chemical is traded under one set of rules.”
A spokesman for the Natural Resources Defense Council, meanwhile, called the draft bill “a gross disappointment.”
“It purports to reform [the Toxic Substances Control Act] but would do more harm than good,” said Daniel Rosenberg, senior attorney with the council’s health and environment program. “For months, the House has heard testimony detailing the fatal flaws of current law and of the bill introduced in the Senate. Yet the House Republicans now have released a draft bill that mirrors and even builds on those deficiencies. The bill has no deadlines, weakens EPA’s ability to protect the public from harmful chemicals in several ways and limits EPA’s ability to get health and safety information from chemical manufacturers.”
The bill's “pro-industry laundry list is particularly remarkable,” Rosenberg added, especially in the wake of a the chemical spill that left 300,000 West Virginia residents without tap water in January.