For months we've watched to see if the chemical safety bills moving through Congress would be better than current law. It’s a low bar, because the Toxic Substance Control Act of 1976, or TSCA, is widely considered the least effective environmental law on the books.
The bills that passed the House and Senate last year didn't clear the bar, but we hoped Congressional negotiators would cobble together the good parts of both bills to craft better legislation. The compromise that has now emerged – without the support of key House Democrats – has a few improvements, but still falls short in some key respects.
First, the compromise would continue to tie the hands of the states by suspending state action while the Environmental Protection Agency studies a chemical’s safety—a process that could take three years or longer. The compromise would grandfather existing state laws and allow states to quickly act to regulate a chemical that EPA might deem a “high priority” chemical. But if a state fails to act quickly, state action would be suspended for up to three years while EPA completes its review. States have been the only cops on the chemical safety beat, regulating scores of chemicals and driving marketplace innovation. Any legislation that claims to be better than current law would permit state action until an EPA rule is final.