IHS Chemical Week


Bipartisan TSCA bill has many areas industry can support


Bipartisanship on any issue is almost unheard of with the current state of gridlock on Capitol Hill. That situation makes the recent legislation to reform the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), introduced by Senator David Vitter (R., LA) and the late Senator Frank Lautenberg (D., NJ), a feat to be commended. As one of Socma’s top priorities, we have long advocated for a two-party solution to TSCA reform. We are pleased to see a bill has been introduced that, as it stands now, Socma and the specialty chemical industry can support.

Lautenberg, who will long be remembered for his dedication and continued efforts on TSCA reform, died Monday, less than two weeks after introducing the Lautenberg-Vitter Chemical Safety Improvement Act of 2013 (S. 1009). Despite Lautenberg’s passing, we are confident the legislation will proceed and serve as a legacy for the five-term senator, who had a passion for this issue.

There’s a lot to like about the legislation. It looks good on balance and shows more promise than any piece of legislation we’ve seen in the past. Currently, there is near parity between 20 Democratic and Republican cosponsors.

Socma has analyzed the legislation, and we are still going through some parts with members. Here are some of Socma’s perspectives on key aspects of the bill:

  • Confidential business information (CBI): CBI protection has been one of Socma’s highest priorities when it comes to TSCA reform, and the new bill clarifies that chemical identity can be protected when it’s contained in a health and safety study as long as it’s substantiated. Structurally descriptive names can be used instead of specific names. Use of generic names should provide balance with the public’s right to know and innovation. We’re also happy to see the bill provides protection for uses, which can also be critical for protecting trade secrets for specialty chemical manufacturers.
  • New chemicals: We have advocated that the new chemicals program be left unchanged, including exemptions such as low volume. Socma lobbied for, and is pleased to see, retention of the 90-day review of new chemicals. EPA is able to review most chemicals in less than 90 days, so we believe this is a sufficient time frame for nonexempt chemicals. However, while the authority for exemptions—such as low volume, low release and exposure, and polymer—has been retained, it appears that they will need to be revisited because the safety standard has changed. Our hope is that these exemptions will be generally maintained.
  • Inventory reset: Socma heavily supported the inclusion of a TSCA inventory reset, and we are very pleased to see the provision to reset inventory by recategorizing into active and inactive lists included in the new bill.
  • Prioritization: No specific deadlines for prioritization have been included in the new legislation, but we are glad to see it is mandated. The bill gives EPA flexibility to set its own schedule. Socma is concerned that this flexibility could perpetuate delays that are a current subject of criticism regarding the treatment of existing chemicals. The lack of a mandate to keep an active inventory of existing chemicals current is one of the single biggest flaws of TSCA.

The Lautenberg-Vitter bill has garnered broad support in a short time—from industry groups, nongovernmental organizations, former EPA officials, and even the Washington Post and New York Times. However, despite this support, the bill still has a long road ahead. While Senator Barbara Boxer (D., CA), chair of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, could potentially move fast on the bill, she has been conspicuously absent as a cosponsor. Also, it’s unclear how much of a priority the bill will be for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., NV), let alone the House of Representatives.

Socma looks forward to working with lawmakers, as well as the specialty chemical industry, on next steps along the road to reforming TSCA.

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