New House TSCA reform bill draws praise and pans

12 March 2014 19:35  [Source: ICIS news]

WASHINGTON (ICIS)--The new chemicals control bill in the US House drew praise from industry officials at the measure’s first congressional hearing on Wednesday, but it was heavily criticised by environmental officials.

In a hearing before the House Subcommittee on Environment and the Economy, chemical company owner Beth Bosley hailed the proposed bill, “Chemicals in Commerce Act” (CICA), as “a very workable, good-faith vehicle for bipartisan TSCA reform”.

Bosley, president of Boron Specialties and speaking on behalf of the Society of Chemical Manufacturers and Affiliates (SOCMA), was referring to the 38-year-old Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), which both industry and the environmental community agree is badly out of date and in need of major modernisation.

CICA was first aired late last month as a discussion draft by its principal sponsor, Representative John Shimkus (Republican-Illinois), chairman of the panel that heard Wednesday’s testimony.

A similar bill, S-1009, the “Chemical Safety Improvement Act” (CSIA), was introduced in the US Senate in May last year and is still pending.

Bosley said she was pleased to see that the House bill shared many features with the bipartisan Senate bill, adding that CICA “is a clear improvement over the status quo”.

She hailed the House bill for “preserving the delicate balance in existing law between the opportunity to innovate and protecting human health and the environment”.

She also welcomed the bill’s protections for companies’ confidential business information (CBI), a major point of concern for chemicals manufacturers in general.

Bosley and other industry witnesses welcomed CICA’s provisions to break the inventory of “chemicals in commerce” into active and inactive lists and to focus safety reviews by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on chemicals in current use.

However, she urged that CICA require, as does CSIA, that EPA consider non-adverse information from producers in addition to adverse data when reviewing a chemical product.

Recognising that not everyone is pleased with the reform approaches being taken in both the Senate and House TSCA reform bills, she urged that congressional consideration of the bills not let “the perfect be the enemy of the good”.

“If we are ever to see a TSCA bill enacted, we must realise that it will never be all things to all people,” she said.

Bosley was joined by Dow Chemical executive Connie Deford in seeing CICA as “a significant step forward for our federal chemical management system”.

Deford, director of global product sustainability and compliance at Dow, said that the Shimkus bill “largely maintains the successful new chemicals program [under TSCA], which is a model for the world”.

“It would protect legitimate confidential business information,” she said, and “ensure a fair and equitable testing burden among relevant parties”.

She urged the subcommittee to “improve, approve and move this bill so that enactment of TSCA reform becomes a reality this year”.

Roger Harris, president of Producers Chemical Company, also welcomed CICA as “a thoughtful and significant step towards the enactment of sensible chemicals management policy”.

Speaking for the National Association of Chemical Distributors (NACD), Harris had particular praise for provisions in CICA for federal pre-emption of state laws regulating chemicals in commerce.

“NACD supports congressional action to develop a federal approach that minimises the need for state laws and ensures potentially conflicting state approaches do not interfere with national markets,” Harris said.

He argued that once EPA has taken regulatory action on a given substance, “it does not make sense to allow a state to take contradictory action”.

But the pre-emption provisions in CICA came under heavy fire from Michael Belliveau, president of the Environmental Health Strategy Center, who argued that both CICA and the Senate bill “violate states’ rights to protect their citizens from toxic chemicals”.

“Unfortunately, the Chemicals in Commerce Act as drafted, like its Senate counterpart … would endanger public health and the environment, if enacted,” he said.

Belliveau, who also serves as a senior advisor to the Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families coalition, said that CICA and CSIA not only fail to improve control of chemicals in commerce but actually eliminate protections now available under TSCA.

“Both bills roll back current law,” he said, because under both “many chemicals will remain untested” and will “weaken the review of new chemicals”.

He also charged that both measures roll back current law provisions on chemicals in consumer products, fail to require expedited action on chemicals of high concern, set aside thousands of chemicals as “low priority” without adequate review and “maintain a veil of secrecy over critical chemical information”.

The Wednesday hearing was the first of what likely will be several sessions by the subcommittee and later the parent House Energy and Commerce Committee before it can face a full House vote.

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

By: Joe Kamalick
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