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By Ari Natter
Nov. 10 — The chances of Senate action on legislation to overhaul the nation's primary chemical law are dimming because of a protracted fight over using the bill as a vehicle to reauthorize an unrelated environmental conservation program, Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) told reporters Nov. 10.
“It's looking less and less likely for this year,” Cornyn, the Senate's No. 2 Republican, said. “Anytime a senator objects you have to go through all the procedural motions and it takes a lot of time.”
While the legislation (S. 697), which would update the Toxic Substances Control Act for the first time since it became law in 1976, has broad support, it remains stalled because Sens. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) placed a hold on the bill until they are guaranteed a vote on legislation to reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF).
Negotiations over the issue have been ongoing for months, but senators have yet to reach a resolution to the impasse, Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, told Bloomberg BNA.
“Unfortunately, people get backed into a corner, and things don't get done the way they should,” Inhofe said.
Still he expressed optimism the legislation would receive a vote, saying “we gotta get it done.”
The bill, which is supported by companies such as DuPont, 3M, and Dow Chemical Co., would require the Environmental Protection Agency for the first time to assess the safety of chemicals in commerce and assure their safety before being allowed to enter commerce.
The legislation is supported by 60 senators and has the support of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who said in early October he still wanted to bring the bill to the floor for a vote (39 CRR 1258, 10/26/15).
But overcoming the objections of Burr and Ayotte would require using up multiple days of Senate floor time and comes as the chamber still must consider legislation to fund the federal government, among other high priority bills.
The LWCF, which uses oil and gas royalties for recreation and conservation projects and expired at the end of September, has proven to be a thorny issue since it faces opposition from some House conservatives.
Burr said he believed there was “still a chance” a deal on reauthorizing the fund could be worked out and the Senate could vote on S. 697 this year.
“We might stick LWCF in something else, or we may come to an agreement where we do LWCF as an amendment [to S. 697] and then take it out of it after we pass it and let TSCA go to conference all alone,” Burr told reporters. “I think there are a lot of iterations that you can do.”
Still at present, Burr said, “I think we are to some degree at loggerheads.”
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