EPA TSCA Revision: Casey at Bat

This week, DuPont publicly supported a bipartisan update to the Toxic Substances Control Act or TSCA. This comes only hours after the Chemical Safety Improvement Act was introduced by Senators Frank R. Lautenberg and David Vitter and numerous Republican and Democrat cosponsors.

Swinging for fences… or benches?

The latest attempt to reform chemical management in the United States is not a grand slam home run for the reform team. It’s definitely a compromise compared to the Safe Chemicals Act update that Lautenberg proposed about a month ago. This is called the “Chemical Safety Improvement Act of 2013.” And guess what? The chemical industry likes it! Hey Mikey!

Ken Cook, president of the Environmental Working Group, says the compromise bill fails to give the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) firm deadlines or enough funding to review potentially harmful chemicals, and that it doesn’t do enough to protect children and other at-risk populations. The provisions, he said, “make sense for the chemical industry, not kids.”

But Richard Denison, senior scientist at the nonprofit Environmental Defense Fund, has a different point of view. “While this bill isn’t perfect,” he said, it’s a policy and political breakthrough and opens a bipartisan path forward to fix a law that needs a major overhaul.”

Denison went on to say that The Tribune series was a big wake-up call for America, and “there are costs to be paid for a broken system.”

Chemical Safety Improvement Act of 2013 is here. It came suddenly, a surprise to many. It may not be the sweeping reform some environmentalists were hoping for. But what it does have is bipartisan support, which is refreshing to say the least.

As explained by the Washington Post, the Lautenberg-Vitter “Chemical Safety Improvement Act of 2013? would give the EPA new tools such as:

  1. The EPA would review all actively used chemicals and label them as either “high” or “low” priority based on their potential risk to human health and the environment. The agency would then subject high-priority chemicals for further review
  2. Regulators would no longer have to go through a long, protracted rule-making process to get information from companies about their chemicals
  3. The EPA will also have greater flexibility to take action on chemicals deemed unsafe, ranging from labeling requirements to outright bans on things like asbestos

Heavy hitters  “DuPont strongly supports TSCA modernization, and we believe that successful reform requires this sort of bipartisan approach,” said Vice President and Chief Sustainability Officer Linda J. Fisher.

Cal Dooley, president of the American Chemistry Council, commented that this “constructive, balanced proposal” wasn’t perfect, but was a step up.

This may not be bases loaded with Casey at the bat, but even a solo home run would be better than a never-ending partisan stalemate tied at zero. There’s reason for enthusiasm. But, in the words of Joe Walsh, we’ll be taking it play by play.