U.S. PIRG is disappointed with the TSCA bill that was passed today by the Senate and will soon be sent to the President.
The bill preempts state action to regulate a chemical while the EPA is merely assessing its safety – a years-long process that will leave us all at risk. The bill also preempts state laws after the E.P.A. has issued a final regulation, preventing states from enacting additional protections. When it comes to health protections, the federal government should set a floor, not a ceiling.
States have led the fight to protect us from toxic chemical exposure, and they should be allowed to continue to do so. California and Washington have robust and comprehensive laws to protect citizens from a host of toxic chemicals. Maryland and has banned BPA in baby bottles and sippy cups and Illinois has banned products containing dangerous amounts of toxic flame retardants. These are only a few examples of states have stepping up in the absence of federal protections.
What we needed was TSCA reform that would give the EPA the power it sorely lacked to keep us safe from toxic chemicals, while allowing states to enact stronger protections that their residents need. What we got was a bill that takes away states’ ability to protect public health, and replaces it with an unnecessarily slow and complicated federal system.
Supporters of the new TSCA bill argue that it will create a better framework for regulating chemicals than the current ineffective TSCA law. We agree that in some ways it would, and that it does give the EPA more authority to test and regulate chemicals. But there is a reason why the chemical industry supports this bill. It handcuffs state regulators, who have been the top cops on the toxic beat for decades. This proposal could best be characterized as one step forward and two steps back. Congress should have done better to protect public health.