Federal Chemical Reform: Improvements Made But More Is Needed

Monday, May 23, 2016

After years of debate and negotiations to reform the nation's main chemical safety law, the House of Representatives is voting on proposed legislation to amend the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), HR 2576. Clean Water Action released the following statement:

Although much improved from previous drafts, the bill is still problematic. It blocks proactive action by state regulators to safeguard residents of their states from toxic chemicals early in the Environmental Protection Agency's safety assessment process. This weakens, instead of strengthens, TSCA. Many states are chemical safety innovators and have built protective precedents which mobilize broad movement at the national level. The bill also removes key tools for EPA to shield Americans from imported products containing hazardous chemical ingredients.

"While core flaws in our nation's outdated chemical safety policies have been addressed, this bill further handcuffs states, limiting their ability to act on chemical health threats," said Cindy Luppi, Clean Water Action's New England Regional Director. "We're disappointed -- this legislation creates regulatory holes that leave state residents unprotected while the EPA conducts studies on a potentially hazardous chemical."

The bill does make some vital improvements. There are provisions that trigger earlier review of the most hazardous chemicals (PBTs, or persistent, bio-accumulative toxins); explicit consideration of the needs of populations most vulnerable to toxic chemical exposure; it "grandfathers" all of 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 final passage of HR 2576.


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