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Chemical Reform Legislation Heads to White House After Senate’s Endorsement

The Senate approved on 7 June the first significant overhaul of the Toxic Substances Control Act since its enactment 40 years ago. The White House has said it strongly supports the measure, which President Obama is expected to sign into law in the near future.

TSCA was created to give the Environmental Protection Agency the authority to require reporting, recordkeeping and testing of chemicals and to restrict the importation, production, use and disposal of substances determined to pose a risk to health or the environment. However, since the law’s enactment the EPA has only been able to effectively require testing of a few hundred of the chemicals in use and has encountered significant barriers in attempting to restrict or ban certain chemicals or uses. The Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act (H.R. 2576) gives the EPA greater authority to identify chemicals as posing a risk, request additional information or testing, and impose restrictions or outright bans.

According to a fact sheet issued by the House Energy and Commerce Committee, H.R. 2576 would do the following.

  • provide the EPA the tools to ensure chemicals in commerce are safer for consumers
  • create a new system for the EPA to evaluate and manage risks associated with chemicals already on the market: either the EPA or a manufacturer (who is willing to pay the cost) may designate a chemical for risk evaluation, the risk evaluation must stand up to rigorous scientific standards set out in the legislation, and if unreasonable risk is determined the EPA must immediately draft a rule to manage such risk
  • set deadlines for the EPA to take action by requiring risk evaluations to be completed within three years and risk management rules to follow completion of risk evaluations by 90 days
  • ensure user fees paid to the EPA are used for chemical management activity (user fees will be deposited in a separate fund in the Treasury and the fees charged and collected will match the cost of carrying out the specific purposes)
  • provide limited pre-emption of state law (once the EPA makes a final decision on whether a chemical poses an unreasonable risk, EPA action would generally apply in all states but prior state laws and private rights of action under tort or contract law will be preserved)
  • maintain protection of confidential business information (certain state, local and tribal government officials and health care professionals will now have access and confidentiality claims must be reclaimed after ten years)
Content provided by Picture: HKTDC Research
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