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By Pat Rizzuto and Ari Natter
Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) said she will convene a daylong hearing of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee July 31 to discuss modernizing the Toxic Substances Control Act with a goal of crafting a compromise bill.
Boxer said the hearing would consider approaches to TSCA reform used in several previous bills, including the Chemical Safety Improvement Act (S. 1009), which Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) and the late Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) introduced May 22.
A goal of the Senate's TSCA reform efforts, which Lautenberg championed over several sessions of Congress, was to increase public health protection by providing EPA with greater authority to obtain information about chemicals and to regulate them when warranted.
When introduced, S. 1009 was hailed as “breakthrough” legislation that reached beyond party lines, thus addressing an issue that has stymied action in recent congressional sessions. None of the previous TSCA reform bills secured Republican support and none saw Senate action.
Boxer told reporters she does not know how that compromise will differ from S. 1009. “That's why we are holding this hearing,” she said.
“What we are hoping happens is a free-wheeling conversation about the goals of the bill and how to best accomplish that,” Boxer said.
“It's pretty straightforward from my perspective. We want to protect the people from dangerous chemicals and allow safe chemicals to go forward,” she said.
Boxer spoke during a hearing on the nominations of three senior Environmental Protection Agency appointees--Avi Garbow to serve as general counsel, Jim Jones as assistant administrator for chemical safety and pollution prevention, and Kenneth Kopocis as assistant administrator for water.
The committee will vote on the nominations at a separate meeting, but did not announce a date for that meeting
In a statement, DuPont applauded S. 1009 as a “sound basis for legislation” that reflected “many of the thoughtful ideas” businesses, environmental organizations, and congressional staff had been discussing for years. Numerous trade associations also have backed the bill including the American Chemistry Council, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, the Consumer Electronics Association, and the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute.
Some environmental organizations have voiced cautious support for S. 1009, while the Environmental Working Group has criticized the legislation.
California's attorney general and the California Environmental Protection Agency have written to Boxer voicing their concerns about preemption language in S. 1009.
As drafted, the bill “severely compromises California's authority to supplement and complement federal efforts to regulate the safety of chemicals,” Brian Nelson, a California special assistant attorney general, wrote in a June 11 letter.
Speaking to reporters after the hearing, Boxer said the hearing will focus on TSCA reform “not any bill.”
“We are asking people to comment on the best parts of each bill and the worst parts of each bill,” Boxer told reporters. She did not detail the specific bills the hearing would consider.
During the nominations hearing, Republicans and Democrats said Jones's 26-year experience at the agency would help as the Senate continues to work to reform TSCA, which has not had its core provisions changed since it was signed into law under President Gerald Ford in 1976.
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) said that “there couldn't be a better candidate than Mr. Jones,” who has served under five presidents, including Democrats and Republicans.
Vitter said he hopes Jones will play a constructive role as the committee tries to bring forward a bipartisan TSCA-reform bill.
Statements from and an archived webcast of the nominations hearing are available at http://tinyurl.com/l4trckv.
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