Leading US enviro senator to move new TSCA bill

02 December 2009 22:08  [Source: ICIS news]

New TSCA bill to be introducedWASHINGTON (ICIS news)--US Senator Frank Lautenberg (Democrat-New Jersey) said on Tuesday he soon will introduce legislation to reform US laws governing chemicals in commerce, saying that chemical makers must be responsible for safety testing.

Lautenberg, chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, told a hearing that in coming weeks he will re-introduce legislation to reform and modernise the 33-year-old Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).

“Our bill will put the burden of proving chemical safety where it belongs, on chemical companies,” Lautenberg said.

In earlier sessions of Congress, Lautenberg has frequently introduced - but never succeeded in passing - his “Kid-Safe Chemicals Act”, a bill that many in the US chemicals industry regard as a clone of the EU’s programme for the registration, evaluation and authorisation of chemicals (REACH).

Lautenberg did not provide any details of his coming legislation, except to say that “it will require companies to prove that their products are safe before the end up in a store, in our homes or in our bodies”.

“We already regulate pesticides and pharmaceuticals this way,” he said, “it’s just common sense that we do the same for chemicals that are used in everyday consumer products.”

He also cited TSCA reform principles recently advanced by the American Chemistry Council (ACC), saying that those criteria “matched up closely with principles released by the Obama administration and have substantial overlap with principles released by environmental, health and labour groups”.

In testimony at Tuesday’s hearing, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator Lisa Jackson reiterated the Obama administration’s TSCA reform goals, saying that a new substances control system should review chemicals “against safety standards that are based on sound science and reflect risk-based criteria protective of human health and the environment”.

She agreed with Lautenberg that “the responsibility for providing adequate health and safety information should rest on industry” and that EPA should have authority to require testing and other information from chemical makers.

EPA should have clear authority to promptly ban substances that do not meet safety standards or for which safety data is not available or provided, she added.

She also said that a new TSCA must provide for timely action by both EPA and chemical producers in substance reviews in order to “provide business with the certainty that it needs for planning and investment”.

Jackson repeated her earlier call for funding support by chemical makers for the greatly expanded testing programme that a renewed TSCA likely will require.  Some chemical industry leaders have already agreed that the sector should assist in TSCA funding.

The National Petrochemical & Refiners Association (NPRA) said it welcomed Tuesday’s hearing by the committee, saying that “Congress, the administration and the chemical manufacturing community must continue to work together, share information and provide the resources needed to update the current chemical risk management framework”.

NPRA president Charlie Drevna also urged that policymakers should work with industry “to ensure that the overarching goals of TSCA, protecting human health and the environment, are achieved while at the same time promoting innovation, economic growth and US competitiveness in global markets”.

Tuesday’s hearing was one of many that will be held over the next year by multiple committees is both the House and Senate in the effort to craft a new TSCA statute.  A final bill is not thought to be likely before sometime in 2011.

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By: Joe Kamalick
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