Reform of US toxics law is top Obama priority - EPA

07 April 2009 18:40  [Source: ICIS news]

BALTIMORE, Maryland (ICIS news)--Reform of the nation’s principle chemicals assessment and control law is a top environmental priority for the Obama White House, a ranking administration official said on Tuesday.

James Jones, a deputy assistant administrator at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), told a chemicals industry conference that EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson has identified reform of the 33-year-old Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) as among her top five priority concerns.

“In a memo she sent out to EPA staff, she identified climate change, clean air, chemical assessment and management, site remediation and clean water as her top priority items,” Jones said.

Jones, who is acting administrator of the EPA’s Office of Prevention, Pesticides and Toxic Substances, said that reform of chemical assessment and management has not previously been a top priority item under any recent presidential administrations.

He said that the administration of President Barack Obama has not yet formed a definitive position on how TSCA should be modernised, but he said that “a consensus of themes” is emerging that likely will guide the president’s reform goals.

“The first consensus then is that EPA ought to make safety determinations for current chemicals,” Jones said.

“Second, there ought to be a special assessment of vulnerable populations, such as children, and third, the government should be free to share CBI [confidential business information] with state governments and foreign governments,” he added.

“These are the framework issues that will likely shape legislation to modernise TSCA,” Jones said.

He said he did not expect to see White House and congressional policymakers converge on specific TSCA reform legislation in the near term but that “we should have a clearer picture within a year of what the legislation might look like”.

Speaking at the opening session of the 2009 Global Chemical Regulations Conference (GlobalChem), Jones said it is crucial that government and industry cooperate to advance revision of TSCA as soon as possible, lest the public and state governments take the lead in reform.

He noted that at least six US states have begun to regulate chemicals on their own and that at least six other states may enact similar regulatory schemes.

Jones cited recent European history in the imposition of severe limitations or outright bans on genetically modified (GM) grains and foods as an object lesson in favour of prompt TSCA revision.

Popular European opposition to GM foods grew so strong that it overwhelmed science, government and industry, he said.

“At the end of the day, the people will rule,” Jones said, “and this is something we should keep in mind as we work on TSCA reform.”

Cosponsored by the American Chemistry Council (ACC) and the Society of Chemical Manufacturers and Affiliates (SOCMA), the GlobalChem conference continues through Wednesday.

To discuss issues facing the chemical industry go to ICIS connect

By: Joe Kamalick
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