The Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act more commonly known as the “Toxic Substances Control Act Reform” bill was recently signed into law and strengthens what environmental commentators considered to be one of the weakest environmental protection laws on the books. The bill revamps the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976 (“TSCA”) by allowing the Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) to regulate existing chemicals while also allowing EPA to propose regulations that would regulate the introduction of new chemicals.
Highlights from this bill include:
· Reviewing chemicals against risk-based safety standards based on sound science;
· Providing EPA with the authority to take risk-management actions when chemicals fail to meet the established standards, with flexibility to take into account sensitive subpopulations, costs, social benefits, equity and other relevant considerations;
· Provisions in legislation to encourage transparency in the process and provide for public access to information; and
· Providing EPA with a sustained source of funding for implementation of new regulatory schemes.
This bill accomplishes many of EPA’s previously stated goals.
The TSCA reform bill incorporates the following changes to the 1976 Act:
· EPA will have the authority to regulate chemicals that are already on the market. Under the 1976 Act, EPA was prevented from regulating existing chemicals.
· Chemical review is expedited, as EPA will be required to identify, at a minimum, ten chemicals considered “high priority” within 180 days of enactment.
· Existing State regulations will remain intact. Should EPA designate a chemical as “high priority,” states would be precluded from establishing new restrictions on the chemical regulated by EPA.
· Toxicity testing may be required through administrative orders as opposed to formal rulemaking.
· Notice must be provided to EPA prior to the production of new chemicals. EPA has 90 days to review such notice.
· Chemical manufacturers and other companies will be required to pay fees for EPA risk reviews of chemicals.
In the past companies could offer what Richard Denison, a scientist at the Environmental Defense Fund, calls a “trade secret” excuse to avoid disclosing what chemicals are actually in their products, says the Post.
EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said in a statement that her agency is “excited to get to work” putting the new law into action.
What this means for the short-run is an evaluation of at least 10 possibly toxic chemicals that are found in cars, sofas, clothing, detergents, and cleansers, for example. The Post reports that this initial batch of chemicals under review will include asbestos, formaldehyde, and flame retardants.
Some environmental groups feel that the new law does not go far enough. While others, like Sen. Rand Paul (R) of Kentucky, feel it goes too far as a “sweeping federal takeover of chemical regulation.” However, as Schouten reported earlier this month when the bill passed, the base of support is broad and includes industry groups such as the National Association of Chemical Distributors, Exxon Mobile, and the American Chemistry Council which have indicated they would support a bill that would standardize chemical regulation.