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House approves overhaul of Toxic Substances Control Law

From the NAM blog, Manufacturing Economy Daily. 

NOTE: Associated Industries of Missouri is the sole official designated partner of the National Association of Manufacturers in Missouri.

The House on Tuesday passed, 403-12, a bipartisan update of the 40-year-old Toxic Substances Control Act, or TSCA, which affects thousands of household products, the Wall Street Journal (5/24, Berzon, Harder, Subscription Publication) reports, adding that the Senate is expected this week to approve the legislation and that President Obama supports it.

Once enacted, the first major change to the 1976 law will empower the Environmental Protection Agency to review toxic chemicals already on the market, evaluate new ones, and impose restrictions if any are deemed unsafe. Such reviews could take years, the Journal says, and chemical producers will be required to contribute $25 million in annual fees, or 25% of the estimated cost, for the EPA reviews, in addition to having to pay for any reviews they request from the agency.

The AP (5/24, Daly), noting that supporters have “said the bill would clear up a hodgepodge of state rules and update and improve a toxic-chemicals law that has remained unchanged for 40 years,” reports the legislation, “more than three years in the making, won support in recent days from a broad coalition” that included the NAM, the chemical industry, and environmental and public-health groups.

The AP quotes a NAM statement saying the industry has “revolutionized the way chemicals are made and used” since the original statute’s adoption in 1976, “yet the law has not been updated to keep up with those changes.” Absent a modern, overarching federal law, states passed legislation to fill the void, resulting in “a patchwork of confusing, often contradictory, regulations for manufacturers and consumers to navigate,” NAM Senior Vice President of Policy and Government Relations Aric Newhouse wrote in a letter. Bloomberg BNA (5/23, Rizzuto), in a story published before Tuesday’s House vote, also noted the NAM’s support for the TSCA update.

US News & World Report (5/24, Neuhauser) quotes the White House as saying in a statement issued before the House: “While not perfect, the bill meets the high goals set by the administration for meaningful reform. The bill is a clear improvement over the current TSCA and represents a historic advancement for both chemical safety and environmental law.”

Separately, the AP (5/24) lists many of the chemicals covered by the updated TSCA.

Editorials Applaud TSCA Update As Crucial, Overdue. In an editorial, the New York Times (5/24, Board, Subscription Publication) says Tuesday’s vote showed Congress “finally getting serious about hazardous chemicals in household products and industrial goods.” The bill, a “product of painful compromises on both sides,” has problems, the Times concedes, mainly that it would override state regulations on chemicals the EPA has reviewed or is currently evaluating. However, the editorial asserts that this shouldn’t be “a major problem” if the agency has the power and congressional funding to do its job and act promptly.

The Washington Post (5/24) editorializes that the legislation “would significantly improve chemical rules for every American and prevent an increasingly expensive and inconsistent patchwork of regulations.” Although some activists and lawmakers “want maximum latitude for states to regulate as they choose,” there should be “little more than token opposition” to the bill, the Post says.

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