States unite to support TSCA overhaul; chemical industry is increasingly odd one out

Richard Denison, Ph.D., is a Senior Scientist.

Yesterday, at its annual meeting, the Environmental Council of the States (ECOS) unanimously adopted a resolution calling on Congress to enact strong and comprehensive reform of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).

ECOS is comprised of the heads of the environmental agencies in the U.S. states and territories.  Its new resolution includes major elements of reform that EDF and the other health and environmental members of Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families have been calling for. 

Reform elements in the ECOS resolution include:

  • shifting the burden of proof of safety to the chemical industry;
  • providing EPA with authority to ensure the safety of all new and existing chemicals, and to take expedited action to control unsafe chemicals;
  • sharing data deemed legitimately confidential with state governments;
  • avoiding any pre-emption of state authority to address chemical safety concerns except where a direct conflict with federal requirements arises; and
  • mandating improvements in addressing chemicals the uses of which fall under the jurisdictions of more than one federal agency.

Happily, these reform elements are also included in the Toxic Chemicals Safety Act of 2010 (H.R. 5820) – introduced by Congressmen Bobby Rush and co-sponsored by Representatives Kathy Castor, Diana DeGette, John Sarbanes, Jan Schakowsky and Henry Waxman – as well as in companion legislation in the Senate, the Safe Chemicals Act of 2010 (S. 3209), introduced by Senator Frank Lautenberg.

At a House subcommittee hearing on H.R. 5820 held on July 29, I testified on behalf of EDF, and joined witnesses from EPA, the Connecticut Coalition for Environmental Justice, Environmental Working Group and Construction Specialties (an international construction firm based in central Pennsylvania), all of whom gave testimony supporting a fundamental overhaul of TSCA.  The only witnesses opposing such reform were from the chemical industry.

With ECOS' unanimous adoption of its resolution, there's no question that U.S. states – many of whom have been at the forefront of addressing chemical safety concerns for years – are formally and collectively joining the ranks of those calling on Congress to enact sweeping changes to TSCA.

Seems like the only question left is this:  When will the chemical industry make good on the much-touted promise it made last year to support real reform?

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