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By Pat Rizzuto
Feb. 28 -- Chemical manufacturers and environmental health organizations are sharply split in their early reactions to draft legislation that would update the Toxic Substances Control Act, with manufacturers generally supportive and environmental groups critical.
The Society of Chemical Manufacturers & Affiliates (SOCMA) is pleased to see the House discussion draft recognize that TSCA is as much a commerce statute as an environmental one, Dan Newton, the society's senior manager for chemical risk management policy and advocacy, told Bloomberg BNA Feb. 28.
The discussion draft of the Chemicals in Commerce Act retains successful provisions of the current TSCA that have allowed U.S. chemical manufacturers to be innovative and competitive, Newton said.
The proposed bill also would make certain changes to TSCA, such as making it easier for the Environmental Protection Agency to obtain toxicity data and other information on chemicals, that would be important improvements over current law, he said.
On the other side, Andy Igrejas, director of a coalition of 450 environmental health and other advocacy groups, told reporters the discussion draft clearly values commerce above public health. Igrejas's Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families coalition represents organizations consisting of about 11 million parents, health professionals, reproductive health advocates, and other individuals.
Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.) released on Feb. 27 a discussion draft of the Chemicals in Commerce Act
Shimkus, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Environment and the Economy, told reporters his subcommittee will hold a hearing on the discussion draft the second week of March. It is likely to hold a second hearing by the end of the month. The goal is to introduce a bill for markup in April, he said.
The Chemicals in Commerce Act joins a similar, but stalled, effort in the Senate to modernize TSCA. Sens. David Vitter (R-La.) and the late Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) introduced the Chemical Safety Improvement Act (S. 1009) in May 2013, but the bill has not moved since a July hearing on it.
The release of the discussion draft is a positive development that adds to the growing effort in Congress to reform the nation's primary chemical management law, Cal Dooley, president and chief executive officer for the American Chemistry Council, said in a statement released Feb. 27.
“The balanced approach taken in the draft Chemicals in Commerce Act will provide Americans with more confidence in the safety of chemicals, while at the same time encouraging innovation, economic growth and job creation by U.S. manufacturers,” he said.
Praise for Shimkus's effort also came from trade associations representing processors, or those companies that use chemicals, for example, as ingredients in household or institutional cleaners.
“The Consumer Specialty Products Association sees the release of the discussion draft as a very positive step in moving the process forward to enact legislation this year.
“Updating the federal statute that regulates chemical safety is a top priority for CSPA and our member companies. Having proposals in both the House and Senate sends the strong signal that legislators recognize the importance of TSCA modernization, not only to the regulated industry, but also to regulators and impacted communities,” that association said in a statement.
The American Cleaning Institute also weighed in.
“Chairman Shimkus has brought forth an important contribution in the effort to strengthen the Toxic Substances Control Act. We applaud his ongoing efforts to listen to a variety of stakeholders and encourage bipartisan support on an issue that's critical to the cleaning product supply chain,” said Ernie Rosenberg, the group's president and chief executive officer.
The list of environmental groups and some small businesses criticizing the discussion draft grew longer throughout the day Feb. 28. In addition to Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families, critics included the Center for Environmental Health, the Environmental Working Group and the Natural Resources Defense Council.
David Levine, chief executive officer and cofounder of the American Sustainable Business Council, said in a statement: “While it is good to see that Chairman Shimkus recognizes the need to fix TSCA, meaningful reform must address three fundamental aspects: transparency, robust safety standards, and incentive for innovation.”
“Upon initial review, this draft falls short on the business principles we've identified to achieve meaningful reform. Our business leaders understand that we are in dire need of comprehensive chemical policy reform to drive a system-wide shift away from hazardous chemicals and towards safer chemicals. Meaningful reform will invigorate consumer confidence to grow our business and our economy,” Levine said.
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The discussion draft bill, a summary of the legislation and other information are available at http://energycommerce.house.gov/press-release/shimkus-unveils-discussion-draft-chemicals-commerce-act.
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