Taking TSCA To Task

Taking TSCA To Task

Today, around 6:30 PM EST, the House of Representatives will vote on H.R. 2576, “To Modernize the Toxic Substances and Control Act and For Other Purposes.”  The goal of the bill is to update the very outdated Toxic Substances and Control Act (TSCA) of 1976. On the one hand I totally agree that TSCA needs to be updated to best improve public health and safety. But H.R. 2576 actually does less for protecting health and safety and more to protect profits of the chemical industry — and exposes us to more chemicals in the process.  Our friends at Environmental Working Group (EWG) confirm that the House TSCA bill, won’t ensure the safety of everyday chemicals.

There are many reasons to oppose the House TSCA reform. Among other things:

  • The bill has an untested and ambiguous safety standard;
  • It fails to require tough deadlines for final agency action;
  • It does not provide the resources EPA needs to quickly review the most dangerous chemicals;
  • The bill would allow chemical companies to pay for quick reviews and approval of their favorite chemicals (think: erectile dysfunction aids). But reviews of the truly dangerous chemicals — like those that persist in the environment and build up in our bodies to cause health impacts — will be left to languish; and
  • The bill fails to subject EPA’s chemical safety decisions to the same standard of judicial review as other EPA actions.

But most troubling is the issue of preemption. In a previous blog on this issue, I discussed the 10th Amendment to our Constitution, which gives State governments the powers not specifically assigned to the Federal government. Ergo, since the Federal government hasn’t updated TSCA since the 1970s, the states have had authority to set their own regulations. Many have done just that, with states from Vermont to California enacting fixes large and small to protect us from toxic chemicals.

But under the House bill, states would be stripped of their ability to regulate chemicals and all authority is placed in the hands of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). This is problematic because the EPA is already understaffed and underfunded to take on such a task. And in a twist of toxic irony, the same members of congress who are gung-ho about giving more authority to EPA just voted to strip it’s budget significantly.

Worse yet, because preemption eviscerates state laws it removes our ability to sue manufacturers when their products cause injury or death. This bill is a benefit for the industry that will subject us to more chemicals while leaving polluters immune to justice. What we need is an upgrade to regulation that protects people and the planet. But there is still time to call your Congressperson today at 1-202-224-3121 and tell them to vote “No” on this toxic bill.

Stay tuned for more information on how to take action.