Senate hearing builds momentum for improving and moving the Chemical Safety Improvement Act

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

Yesterday’s mega-hearing (19 witnesses, 5+ hours!) on the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), held by the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW), lent new urgency to the need for advancing long-overdue reform of this flawed and outmoded law.  And it opened a promising new phase in the long effort to get reform legislation that would protect public health through the Committee and to the Senate floor.

The hearing provided a formal opportunity for witnesses to discuss strengths as well as many of the concerns with the Chemical Safety Improvement Act (CSIA), S. 1009, the bipartisan bill authored by the late Senator Frank Lautenberg and Senator David Vitter that now has 25 Republican and Democratic cosponsors.  Notably, despite the concerns, witness after witness called on the Committee (10 members of which attended the hearing) to work to improve this bill. 

There seemed to be a remarkable level of agreement (though certainly not consensus) among both witnesses and members on several points: 

  • First, the political opening created by the introduction of CSIA represents the best chance we’ve seen in a long time to fix TSCA, with the bill serving as the starting point for the Committee.
  • Second, the compromise bill has significant flaws that need to be addressed. 
  • Third, there is a willingness on all sides to address these concerns with the current bill, and to work to keep it bipartisan. 
  • And finally, needed fixes can and should be made as the bill is taken up and advanced by the Committee.

I’ll have more to say in future posts about the concerns we and others have with the bill and how we think they can be addressed while keeping the forward momentum that was on display today. 

That won’t be easy, but as my colleague, Daniel Rosenberg of NRDC, in his testimony yesterday, brilliantly summed up the point we’re at now:  “This is no time to throw up our hands, but to roll up our sleeves.”


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