25 senators offer bipartisan boost to Lautenberg reform bill
E & E News,
July 9, 2012
Twenty-five senators from both parties today lent a measure of momentum to Sen. Frank Lautenberg’s (D-N.J.) long-running push for reform of federal toxics law, urging U.S. EPA to advance two proposed new rules for flame retardants while lamenting the lack of teeth in the agency’s power to restrict chemicals linked to human health problems.
The letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson comes two months after advocates for reform of the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) began marshaling congressional support in the wake of a Chicago Tribune series on the chemical industry’s work to gain a foothold for flame retardants that studies have tied to hormonal and other developmental defects, particularly in children (E&E Daily , May 15).
EPA proposed in April to require any company using one of seven types of flame retardants, a class called polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), to notify the agency 90 days in advance and to collect information that could be used for a complete health study of the chemicals. TSCA requires EPA to present scientific proof of a chemical’s safety risk before requiring its removal from the market, a burden that Lautenberg and other supporters of reform have long decried as too steep.
Today’s letter puts more than one-quarter of the Senate, including Republicans Olympia Snowe of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine, on the record aligning with Lautenberg — at least on the general principle of updating TSCA.
“While we commend the EPA for taking steps to address PBDEs, it is concerning that the agency must undertake lengthy rulemaking processes merely to secure additional health and safety data on a chemical of concern and to receive notifications regarding expansions of its uses,” the senators wrote to Jackson.
“This reinforces why there is broad agreement that TSCA must be reformed to protect American families from dangerous chemicals in a cost-effective way and we urge you to continue to work with Congress to enact consensus reforms.”
EPA is unlikely to take issue with that entreaty, despite lawmakers’ failure to achieve a workable consensus among industry and environmentalist stakeholders on how to change TSCA. The acting chief of EPA’s chemical safety office said last month that the law leaves his agency inadequately prepared to regulate, telling a group of state officials that “it has taken us literally 30 years to get a relatively small amount of safety data” (Greenwire , June 8).
Click here to read the senators’ letter.