Inhofe, Boxer Expect Final Deal on Chemicals

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By Anthony Adragna

May 10 — House and Senate lawmakers are likely to reach a deal by the end of the week overhauling the nation's primary industrial chemicals statute, the top Democrat and Republican on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee told reporters May 10.

Both Sens. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) and Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) said they believed both chambers could move the bill overhauling the Toxic Substances Control Act quickly after a final deal emerges. Inhofe said he hoped to secure a commitment from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) for floor time for the bill during a meeting scheduled for May 11.

“We’re getting close—we are—we really are,” Inhofe said. Several additional people closely tracking the negotiations—on and off Capitol Hill—also told Bloomberg BNA an agreement appeared close.

Negotiators have been trying to resolve differences between a broad Senate bill (S. 697) revamping the Toxic Substances Control Act and a narrower House-passed version (H.R. 2576). Supporters of the effort include Dupont, Dow Chemical Co., 3M, BASF Corp., National Association of Manufacturers and National Retail Federation.

‘Vast Majority' Will Support

Boxer, who for months vigorously opposed the Senate's bill over the issue of federal preemption of state chemical laws and regulations, said her concerns had been addressed and that she expected the “vast majority” of lawmakers would support the final compromise.

“Is it perfect? No. It’s a compromise,” the California Democrat said. “Does it, in fact, address the issue of preemption in a really smart, good way? Yes.”

She said the compromise found what she described as a “sweet spot” concerning preemption that will “give the states the opportunity to act.” Language from Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) served as the foundation for the ultimate agreement on preemption, Boxer said.

One person familiar with the compromise said it would broaden the ability for states and local jurisdictions to get a waiver from preemption. The compromise would mandate the EPA to grant a preemption waiver if certain conditions are met, according to the source.

The House bill would preempt states from passing future bans or restrictions on chemicals after the Environmental Protection Agency has taken final action, while the Senate bill allowed a range of state chemical regulations, but could preempt some once the EPA began to assess the risks a chemical posed.

Inhofe and Boxer announced they reached agreement on the “key sticking points” of TSCA reform in a May 6 statement after weeks of negotiations (89 DEN A-10, 5/9/16).

House Floor Time Next Week?

House members might try to move the final agreement as soon as the week of May 16 under an expedited procedure known as suspension of the rules, Boxer said.

Legislation considered under suspension of the rules requires a two-thirds majority to pass. An aide to House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who controls the chamber's schedule, was not immediately available to comment on Boxer's suggestion the measure could come up that quickly.

Once it does pass the House, though, Boxer and Inhofe said the Senate would likely take it up under a time agreement and pass it quickly.

“I don’t think there would be anything in the way, assuming our preemption language sticks,” Boxer said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Anthony Adragna in Washington at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Larry Pearl at