After several years of hearing that it is coming, it appears it is finally happening. There has been a move afoot to "modernize" the Toxic Substance Control Act (TSCA). Over time there has been a bill that has been introduced and then never acted upon. However, this session of Congress appears to be moving this one along.
It seems that Senate Bill 697 (S697) has become the consensus leader in the pursuit of action. And, so far seems to be moving at a rapid pace. This Bill - the "Frank R. Lantenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act" - was introduced on March 10, 2015. The Bill has had hearings in the Committee on Environment and Public Works and has been sent on to the Senate as of April 28, 2015.
And while GovTrack.us only gives it a 15% chance of being enacted, The Hill reported on May 1, 2015; that the it may likely see a Senate floor vote in June. There are currently 21 co-sponsors of the bill including the Sen. Tom Udall (D - N.M.) and Sen. James Inhofe (R - OK). And if the bipartisan support is a bit of a surprise, add this to the mix - the American Chemistry Council has also stepped up to add its support for TSCA reform. So, this is something that should be watched closely.
At issue here is how chemicals in commerce are regulated, and the perception about how well or poorly this has occurred in the past. The fundamental problem is not with TSCA itself but in its implementation, and now we are potentially looking at new legislation will definitely change the overall landscape of how chemicals are introduced into commerce. And, it is always these changes that while the intention is good, may result in some very disconcerting unintended consequences.
Some of these consequences are already being flagged in the mainstream press. There was an opinion piece in the Washington Post on May 1 by Ruth Marcus, that highlighted the rationale for the push for modernization but is also pointing out some of the potential pitfalls of this "fix". What is at issue is related to what we do and do not understand about the materials that we utilize to produce our foods, build our shelters, and use to make the products that improve our quality of life. Because of the various approaches by the Federal government, States and local governments, industry would like a clearer picture of what it has to do to in order to get something new into the marketplace. However, the amendment worked out to get this Bill of Committee has stirred up a firestorm in terms of who has the ultimate say - and that appears to be with EPA.
These amendments have caused a split within the previous supporters of TSCA reform. It will be very interesting to follow the press as these amendments and the overall text of the current bill gets circulated. In the past week, there have been over 500 different news reports about the status of the bill and reactions to it.