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The Chemical Industry has Families, Too

If you have been reading the latest opinion pieces on the Frank R. Lautenberg for Chemical Safety in the 21st Century Act, S.697, you might think there is a conspiracy by the chemical industry to avoid being regulated by weakening the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). The thinking is that since S. 697 is an industry-backed bill it must be inherently bad and deregulatory in nature, so as to perpetuate commercialization of nasty chemicals and facilitate delays at EPA. To make matters worse, critics think that by strengthening preemption of EPA decisions on the states, they (the states) will not be able to adequately protect their citizens. The consequence would be that families and children would be at greater risk from exposures to chemicals than they are under the status quo.

But wait, the chemical industry is made up of people with families, spouses and children, too. These people of various political stripes are also consumers. Another thing…the chemical industry is made up of many different sectors throughout the chain of commerce with varying interests. In other words, the chemical industry is not the monolith that seems to be implied. It is, therefore, truly remarkable there is so much agreement around S. 697 among the various trades. What’s even more remarkable is there is bipartisan and environmental NGO support now, as well. TSCA has received a lot of criticism over the years, and industry, along with most other stakeholders, agrees with much of this criticism. That is why, after years of negotiations and failed partisan bills, we have finally arrived to where we are now.

The bill clearly strengthens the status quo. It mandates EPA to review chemicals already on the market, known as existing chemicals, with deadlines. The lack thereof under current law is probably the biggest shortcoming of TSCA. It also gives EPA more authority to collect data on chemicals, new and existing, and restricts confidential business information claims. The safety standard is now purely based on health and eco factors, not the economy. Industry would also have to help foot the bill in funding the toxics programs, since EPA resources have been a concern. For all of this, we ask for strengthened preemption (done on a use-by-use basis under the scope of TSCA). If a chemical and its specific use are preempted, that simply means it’s in the crosshairs, and EPA is doing an assessment; therefore, states would not need to fill a vacuum. Isn’t this a good thing?

It is a disappointment, after all these years, in the presence of a bipartisan bill that originated from the now deceased liberal Senator Frank Lautenberg to continue to hear the rhetoric and misinformation about how industry is somehow trying to finagle a sweetheart deal. 

For more information on TSCA reform, contact Dan Newton at (202) 721-4158.

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