US Senate staffs at work on TSCA revision, but no bill this year

06 October 2011 22:15  [Source: ICIS news]

WASHINGTON (ICIS)--Republican and Democrat congressional staffers are talking about a framework for revision and modernisation of the main US chemicals control law, but no real progress is expected this year or next, sources said on Thursday.

Staff officials representing Senator James Inhofe (Republican-Oklahoma) and Senator Frank Lautenberg (Democrat-New Jersey) have had several meetings in recent months on how to find common ground for revising the 35-year-old Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), including a meeting within the last few weeks, according to Matt Dempsey, spokesman for Inhofe.

Lautenberg and Inhofe both serve on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, where Inhofe is the ranking Republican.

Lautenberg has previously proposed a bill, the Safe Chemicals Act, to revise TSCA, but that measure has been strongly opposed by industry and has never gotten much traction in Congress.

Inhofe has supported reform of TSCA, but he has cautioned against “extreme solutions” that could undermine US industry.

Dempsey said the discussions between Inhofe’s and Lautenberg’s staffers are ongoing, along with meetings with various stakeholders.

“These are listening sessions, and I’d say it has been a good process thus far,” Dempsey said. And we appreciate Senator Lautenberg’s commitment to addressing the issue.”

Dempsey said both sides are working in good faith, but he could not predict when the talks might bear fruit, such as a bipartisan working draft of a proposed revision bill.

There is widespread belief that Congress will not be able to complete work on a TSCA modernisation bill before the US national elections in November 2012, and the task will fall to the next Congress in 2013.

Dempsey said it was hard to say if the negotiations would take that long. 

“The two staffs have been working very closely, and we’re on the same page in terms of what needs to be done to get a [TSCA] bill through Congress,” he said.

He noted that getting a TSCA revision bill that would meet requirements of the Democrat-majority Senate and the Republican-majority House “might be an uphill fight”.

Scott Jensen, spokesman for the American Chemistry Council (ACC), was not optimistic about chances for passage this year or next for a TSCA modernisation bill.

“It’s safe to say that we don’t expect much progress on TSCA legislation this year,” Jensen said.

“As far as moving forward in any meaningful way, it would be unlikely,” he said. “That’s no surprise, given the many other priorities in Congress.”

Paul Hodges studies key influences shaping the chemical industry in Chemicals and the Economy

By: Joe Kamalick
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