Chemical reform: Progress, but not enough

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Last night the Senate passed the same bill amending the nation's chemical safety legislation that was passed in May by the House of Representatives. After years of debate and negotiations to reform the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), this bill is on its way to the President. He is expected to sign it into law.

Clean Water Action released the following statement:

The bill, though much improved from previous drafts, is still problematic. Though many states have led the way on chemical safety, it ultimately blocks proactive action by state regulators to safeguard residents from toxic chemicals early in the Environmental Protection Agency's safety assessment process. These states have built protective precedents which mobilize broad movement at the national level. Unfortunately, this bill leaves a more narrow playing field for states to continue to innovate. The bill also removes key tools for EPA to shield Americans from imported products containing hazardous chemical ingredients.

"The bill passed by the Senate addresses some core weaknesses of our outdated chemical safety laws - but it further restricts states, narrowing their ability to protect people from chemical health threats," said Cindy Luppi, Clean Water Action's New England Regional Director. "We're disappointed -- this legislation creates regulatory holes that may leave state residents unprotected while the EPA conducts studies on a potentially hazardous chemical."

The bill does make some vital improvements. Provisions that trigger earlier review of the most hazardous chemicals (PBTs, or persistent, bio-accumulative toxins) are welcome. As is the explicit consideration of the needs of populations most vulnerable to toxic chemical exposure. The Senate bill also "grandfathers" all important state policies passed before 2003 such as California's Proposition 65. In addition, it provides important windows of opportunity for state action on chemicals like toxic flame retardants, allowing pending bills in Massachusetts and Rhode Island to move forward without swift preemption. Clean Water Action thanks all who successfully negotiated for these improvements, but cannot support the final bill.


Since our founding during the campaign to pass the landmark Clean Water Act in 1972, Clean Water Action has worked to win strong health and environmental protections by bringing issue expertise, solution-oriented thinking and people power to the table.

Michael Kelly