Sen. Lautenberg reintroduced his Safe Chemicals Act of 2013 – same as his last one – to amend the Toxic Substances Control Act today. Get ready for PR campaigns by celebrities and/or mothers with baby strollers.  Presumably Sen. Vitter will be close behind with his version of an amendment to TSCA more along industry lines.

Some thoughts on the Lautenberg Summary points:

1. “Americans overwhelmingly support legislation to reform TSCA” – Americans know next to nothing about TSCA, period.  All they've been told is it is "broken" because EPA has banned very few chemicals. Even most environmental professionals haven't a clue about TSCA. Only a handful of wonks really understand this complex law and its regulations and how it has significantly influenced the development of new chemicals.

2. "Establish[es] a Risk-Based Chemical Management System Based on Sound Science" with a "safety standard ensures that there is a reasonable certainty that no harm will be caused to human health or the environment from the aggregate exposure to the chemical."  The words sound good, but the practice is nigh on impossible, given what we know (and can conceivably know) today about hazards and exposures.  So we are back to figuring our what is "reasonable"  [or "unreasonable" in today's TSCA] and how far "science" can help inform what is and must be a political decision to restrict commerce to achieve "no harm."

3. "Focus Attention on Priority Chemicals" - like EPA is already doing with its work plans. Maybe Congress does need to lean on EPA to get more efficient - as if either group knows what that means.  Not so clear that the convoluted process in Lautenberg's bill would achieve that goal.  Plus, the bill encourages petitions for EPA to put chemicals on the priority list(s) and crank out more safety standards.

4. "Secure Access to Health and Safety Data" - EPA can already access existing studies, but the bill allows EPA to "order" companies to conduct multi-million dollar toxicity studies without rulemaking if that data is insufficient (and when is there ever enough data?).  No judicial review is a standard provision throughout the bill - because notice and comment rulemaking takes too long.  Exposure information will be reported regularly by manufacturers and processors along the lines of the Chemical Data Reporting rule (Congress as detailed rule writers) as well as reporting to create an "active" inventory (good idea).

5. "Protect Americans from Harmful Chemicals ....If EPA determines that a chemical fails to meet the ["no harm"] safety standard" it can, by order - again, not reviewable by the courts - restrict a chemical and its use.  At least the safety standards go through rulemaking, but it will be amazing if they aren't incredibly narrow in detailing what is "safe."  Plus, provisions on "hot spot" identification and action plans.

6. "Promote Innovation and Protect Confidential Business Information" - Promoting innovation by maintaining R&D exemptions and  requiring incentives and expedited reviews of "safer" alternatives (even if they cause some harm?) and support for green chemistry research and education. Confidentiality will be available on a time-limited basis for new chemical identities before they are commercialized.  Commercial chemicals' identities can't be claimed.  Generic use information must be revealed along with specific use in children's products. No CBI for "a known or probable reproductive, developmental, neurological, or immunological toxicant, carcinogen, or mutagen; or persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic" unless it meets the safety standard (fat chance).  CBI can also be shared with other agencies, including states (a good idea, if protection procedures are followed).

We'll have to wait for Vitter's version and maybe finally get more open discussion of the numerous provisions that have been piled into the Safe Chemicals Act.  So far it's been a pretty one-sided drafting exercise, led by Lautenberg staff and Richard Denison of NRDC.
Stay tuned.


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