Last month, Senators David Vitter (R-LA) and Tom Udall (D-NM) introduced the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act, a new bill to reform the long-outdated Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976 (TSCA). The Vitter-Udall bill has been widely criticized by many in the environmental community for not doing enough to reform existing laws and, in some cases, undermining the ability of current laws to protect our health. Some of the biggest problems with the bill are:
-It would undermine state laws that do a better job at protecting public health than the new federal law.
-It gives a free ride to chemicals deemed “likely to” meet a safety standard – a designation that cannot be challenged in court.
-It is much weaker than a “test chemicals first, sell only if safe” policy, which is common practice in Europe.
-It hobbles the EPA’s authority to protect us from chemicals in consumer products.
In response, Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Ed Markey (D-MA) have introduced their own bill, the Toxic Chemical Protection Act. Senator Boxer is an outspoken critic of the Vitter-Udall bill, stating that the legislation was largely written by the chemical industry. “I have never before seen so much heavy-handed, big-spending lobbying on any issue,” she said.
The Boxer-Markey bill addresses many of the biggest flaws in current legislation. The Toxic Chemical Protection Act would maintain states’ ability to protect the public from toxic chemicals, require the EPA to evaluate whether chemicals are safe before they are brought to market, speed up the EPA’s process for reviewing chemicals, and force the agency to review all chemicals already on the market – all improvements that do not exist in the Vitter-Udall bill.
The Vitter-Udall Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act currently has 21 co-sponsors in the Senate. Find out where your senators stand on the bill and urge them not to support it. You can reach your senators through the Congressional Switchboard at (202) 224-3121. Be sure to give them your name, where you’re from, and ask them to not back the new Chemical Safety Act, and support the Toxic Chemical Protection Act instead. Other points to highlight are:
-TheVitter-Udall Chemical Safety Act preempts states’ ability to regulate chemicals.
-It has a weak “no unreasonable risk of harm” safety standard (instead of a “reasonable certainty of no harm” standard).
-It lacks strict deadlines for reviewing chemical safety.
-It requires companies to pay only minimal fees for safety reviews of new chemicals, severely limiting the resources available to the EPA to enforce the law.
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