Rep. Shimkus held a hearing April 29, 2014, on his latest discussion draft of the Chemicals in Commerce Act to reform TSCA today.  You can find the written testimonies here and the hearing tape will be posted in the future.  Some eyebrow-raising comments I noted:

As expected, the Dems trashed the bill.  Shimkus was testy about how they hadn't responded with alternate language and there was a continuing "I asked for some/No you didn't" back and forth during the hearing.

Jim Jones, Assistant Administrator for TSCA office at EPA, said EPA wants to affirmatively declare whether a new chemical is safe, assuming it has authority to go get whatever information it needs to make that decision.  Effectively, EPA gets what it wants now to let a new chemical pass PMN review and if not, binds the manufacturer to volume and/or use restrictions until it does.  I was surprised he wants EPA to make explicit "safe" calls.  He also said the bill should have numerical targets on the number of chemicals it has to issue risk evaluations and restrictions, not just a time frame.  Apparently, EPA need a legislative kick in the pants to get anything done.  He was also skeptical that the switch to "cost-effective" restrictions was going to be any better than "least burdensome," but was willing to see clarification from Congress and acknowledged that cost needed to be a consideration (duh, Executive Order requirement).  Overall, he irritated Shimkus by being uniformly negative about the second draft.  The chairman did some teeth-pulling to get Jones to agree eventually that there were some good bits in the draft bill.

Andy Igrejas, Safer Chemicals and Healthy Families coalition, really trashed the bill, as expected.  State preemption was still awful (ditto from Mike Moore, National Conference of State Legislators).  Section 5 had been weakened to give EPA less authority to get information.  I still don't get this point.  Put the "safety determination" back in and drop low priority provisions.  "Cost-effective" is the same as "least burdensome."  In fact, cost shouldn't come into regulation at all.  NGOs are still stuck on “reasonable certainty of no harm.” I.e., ban anything with hazard, because likely there will be some risk to some vulnerable population (which the bill still doesn't adequately mandate EPA to act on) and that is totally unacceptable.  He wants a pesticide registration approach for all chemicals, it appears.

Beth Bosely for SOCMA surprisingly recommends authorizing submission of non-adverse effects data under section 8(e).  Not sure where this comes from as section 8(d) is the data call-in provision and having to report essentially every tox study companies do on a 30 day clock seems a tad extreme.  Nothing stops companies from submitting info to EPA voluntarily.  She also recommends putting in targets for the number of chemicals to be reviewed.

Mark Greenwood, former AA for toxics and now private environmental attorney, had some good practical comments.  He liked the distinction between "significant risk" for risk evaluation and "unreasonable risk" for risk management. He thought the change to "cost-effective" was a good one and would give EPA wiggle-room to issue regulations without the straight-jacket of "least burdensome" quantitative analysis of all options.  He was also supportive of state preemption once EPA has taken action as the lack of uniformity made international negotiations, not to mention domestic, difficult.

I still remain puzzled over the push-back against considering costs of risk management.  "Cost-effective" means to me (and maybe needs more clarification in the bill) that you pick the cheaper risk management options that result in risk reduction to a "safe" (enough) level.  Not that you need to try to predict total costs and benefits to the 6th decimal point, but you ought to have a fairly good rationale why different mitigations are better or worse.  I don't get what the NGOs seem to be for: EPA should be authorized to pull out of a hat whatever risk management it wants  - or better yet, just ban it and who cares how much it costs, because it's just evil "Industry" that will suffer?  Cal Dooley, ACC, used CFLs that contain mercury as an example of net benefit.  Banning fire hydrants because they have lead in them was offered as another example of nonsense.

I appreciated the points made on how many chemicals are really in commerce - more like 7,500 of any consequential production than 85,000.  And the squirming by Jones on why Canada was able to work through prioritizing and evaluating their 12,000 chemicals.

Conclusion:  I didn't see a lot of opportunity for constructive word-smithing.

Good Luck Mr. Shimkus!


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