State regulators join industry in urging federal action on TSCA

07 March 2012 00:15  [Source: ICIS news]

BALTIMORE, Maryland (ICIS)--State regulators and chemical industry officials on Tuesday agreed that local governments would be less interested in regulating or banning chemicals and related products if the US Congress would modernise federal law in this area.

Appearing on a panel at the annual GlobalChem regulatory conference, environmental control officials from Washington state and Maryland detailed the extensive measures that their and other states are taking to regulate chemicals in commerce – largely, they said, because the federal government has failed to act.

Carol Kraege, toxics policy coordinator for the Washington State Department of Ecology, and Kathy Kinsey, deputy secretary at the Maryland Department of Environment, related why and how their respective governments are moving to regulate chemicals in commerce.

But both said that their governments would prefer not to take the initiative in chemicals regulation and would in large measure defer to federal enforcement in this area if Congress were to modernise and reform the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).

TSCA, the principal US law governing chemicals in commerce, has not been substantially modified since it was enacted in 1976, and there is broad agreement among industry, environmental groups and many in Congress that the 36-year-old statute is badly in need of an update.

However, there has been little progress among industry officials, environmentalists and members of Congress in finding common ground for TSCA reform.

Legislation to modernise TSCA was introduced in the US House and Senate last year, but the bills were considered too radical by US chemical industry officials who saw in them an attempt by environmentalists to impose a European-style Reach programme in the US.

Other conference speakers representing both government and private sector interests have renewed calls for modernisation of TSCA, not the least to give industry a measure of certainty going forward.

The longer Congress delays dealing with TSCA, the more state efforts to regulate chemicals proliferate, according to Roger Bernstein, vice president for state affairs at the American Chemistry Council (ACC).

Maryland Department of Environment's Kinsey told some 200 chemical industry regulatory specialists that in the absence of modern federal controls, 10 states have banned or restricted use of bisphenol-A, 24 states have adopted laws banning or regulating the use and disposal of mercury in consumer products, eight states have banned or restricted the use of cadmium in products, and 25 states have banned or restricted the use of lead in consumer items.

In addition, she said, six states have taken action on brominated flame retardants, 34 states have enacted product stewardship laws, four states have enacted biomonitoring statutes, and three states have enacted laws restricting use of chemicals in cosmetics.

Those, she noted, are laws already enacted at the state level, and new measures banning or otherwise restricting a variety of chemicals are pending this year before legislatures in more than two dozen states.

Bernstein pointed out that while only 1% of bills introduced in the US Congress actually become law, 25% of measures put forward in state legislatures get enacted, “so states have a good chance of advancing these sorts of bills”.

He also said that state legislators often feel out of their depth in dealing with chemicals regulation, so they are eager to pass broadly written bills if only to hand the issue off to regulators.

“I do think that a constructive change in TSCA that is modern and science-based would have a tempering effect on state legislation,” Bernstein said. 

“Because with a modern TSCA, state legislators would know that there is a safety net, and that if they decide to not act on legislation in this area that the sky isn’t going to fall on them,” he said.

Kraege and Kinsey agreed, with Kinsey adding that “I think this is probably true for all states as well”.

Cosponsored by ACC and the Society of Chemical Manufacturers and Affiliates (SOCMA), the GlobalChem conference runs through Wednesday.

By: Joe Kamalick
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